Published on 5th January 2021 at 16:21.
Hi everyone, and Happy New Year!
It’s fair to say 2021 is not off to the best of starts. Solidarity and sympathy from everyone here at the Union. We wanted to get in touch to outline news about the new lockdown restrictions, pass on a message from the Sussex Renters’ Union about the Rent Strike and share an open letter from the Save Our Grades campaign for no detriment.
We were told by the University last term that students would face a staggered return to University with some having one week of online teaching from 25 - 29 January. However, over the winter break Covid-19 cases rose rapidly in most parts of the country, including in Brighton and Hove.
The new strain of the virus has driven this increase in cases and the government announced a national lockdown last night (4th January). Schools, colleges and workplaces will mostly be closed, and initial lockdown guidance says that “Higher Education provision will remain online until mid February for all except future critical worker courses”.
The three unions which represent staff working on campus have also communicated with the University about the increase in cases and staff (and student) safety on campus.
Students have been told not to return to Brighton, yet many are still paying rent here. The Renters' Union’s rent strike campaign continues to go from strength to strength, with hundreds of students now signed up to withhold rent from the university until their demands are met.
They are part of a growing national movement: students at nearly 40 universities set to strike! This has attracted a lot of positive media coverage and we are really pleased our members have featured in this.
We at the SU want to reaffirm our commitment to fully supporting the strike and pass on a message from the strikers:
There is still time to join us! Pissed off at the university making us pay for accommodation we can’t live in? Pissed off at a lack of mental health and self-isolation support? Think we should have 40% off of our rent? us too, so join the rent strike.
The issue of rent reduction in privately-rented accommodation is also really important. We would like to hear from students who have experience negotiating with their landlords on this to create a template email for students to send to their landlords. We recommend getting housing advice from housing organisation Shelter and joining the local tenants Union ACORN Brighton with your flatmates as first steps.
Meanwhile, given that the pandemic is still in full swing and affecting students’ education and mental health, there is no better time to consider what can be done to reassure us that assessments will not be affected by issues outside of our control. Read, sign, and share the Sussex Save Our Grades statement calling for no detriment/academic mitigation.
If your assessments in the December-January assessment period have been negatively affected, you may be able to apply for Exceptional Circumstances. If you have any questions or want to talk about the process, you can book a same-day appointment with the SU Advice team here. We also really want to collect data on how students are being affected this assessment period. If you’ve got a few minutes, please fill in our survey to let us know how assessments went for you and to build our case for the support students need.
Everyone has different ways of coping with the lockdown and the stresses of University work. We wanted to share a platform run by the MIND Network that signposts people to projects and activities for dealing with social isolation creatively. These include Glastonbury festival live streams and online cooking classes run by migrants, refugees and asylum seekers through Migrateful, where you can learn to make dishes from around the world.
If you’re feeling isolated, you can also still sign up to the Buddy Scheme to be matched with another Sussex student who shares your interests. People have found it’s a good way of making friends - even if you’re not in or around Brighton.
There’s also the Sussex Uni Discord server, where you can chat with others, and lots of societies are on Discord too.
Have a look at our Eat, Drink & Shop page for updated opening hours for our SU outlets and the Co-op on campus.
Please feel free to get in touch with your Full-time Officer team if you want to. We want to make sure this is a year of students, staff and the community coming together to support each other through what is hopefully the last of the pandemic.
Love and solidarity to all!