Throughout my time as a student, and particularly during my election campaign, it became clear to me that many students just don’t really know what CUSU does. In part this is unsurprising, the collegiate nature of the University means that many students are more engaged with what’s going on within their college and on their J/MCR. Not only that, but students are incredibly busy, and student politics isn't always going to be top of everyone’s priorities.
But ultimately CUSU’s legitimacy among students is integral to its ability to push for change in the University. When CUSU Sabbs attend meetings, our voice carries weight because it is seen to represent the ‘student interest.’ When a disconnect emerges between CUSU and the broader student body, we can no longer claim to do that. It, therefore, limits the respect that the University has for the views we express. We become just another person in the room and a junior and inexperienced one at that. As such, communicating with and engaging students must be a central part of what CUSU does if it is to make change at the University.
We are already working hard at communicating with students and have multiple channels through which we do this. These include CUSU social media pages, public Sabb Facebook accounts, the weekly bulletin, CUSU Council, and face-to-face interactions with students. This year we’ll continue to work on maximising the potential of these channels to ensure that students are up-to-date with what we’re doing and that we are listening to and engaging the student voice where appropriate in our decision making.
Our attempts to do this will be multifaceted. In my manifesto, I promised to do vlogs. These will be forthcoming when I’ve finally managed to get hold of the tech (and the confidence!) to walk around filming myself. In the meantime, I’ll be doing this weekly blog, and the weekly bulletin in term time, to keep people up to date. Once term starts, we will be making an effort to attend JCR open meetings and broader student events to provide students with an opportunity to engage with us.
One of the biggest focuses will be a review of CUSU Council. This is unlikely to be done in time for Michaelmas, but hopefully, by Lent Term CUSU Council will have become a more lively source of debate in which each representative feeds directly back to their constituents such that students are able to actively voice concerns.
Finally, I’m excited to announce that we have begun a new project into reviewing our website. This is something the CUSU team have been working on since before I came into office and which has been done after careful consideration. After four years with our current website provider, we feel it is time to take a step back, review where we are, and look at where we want to go. We have taken previous student feedback on board whilst balancing that with the need to allow enough time to effectively understand and utilise the ability and functions of the existing website.
So what does this mean? This week we will be moving from our current provider to an interim website, allowing us to make decisions while not tied to a contract with a service provider. We are in the fortunate position of having the support at the moment to allow us to walk away from a contract without stepping straight into another one.
We will spend this next academic year using this interim site while working out exactly what the best thing to do about the website is in the long term. At its best, a good website will be a valuable resource and hub of student activity which will require a variety of features. A good website is incredibly valuable to students, and student feedback and students’ interest will be at the heart of the decision making around this. I can’t wait to keep you updated on this project and the wider attempts to improve engagement with CUSU. I hope you’ll join me in making that possible! As ever, please do email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or add me on facebook and send me a message if you'd like to get in touch!