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Officer update - Weekly Meeting with Jayne Aldridge and Graeme Pedlingham

Published on 22nd January 2021 at 13:19.

Your officers met with Jayne Aldridge, Director of Student Experience, and Graeme Pedlingham, Deputy Pro Vice Chancellor for Education, who are members of the University management team, today. The following issues were discussed:

Student parties on campus

Jayne Aldridge talked about the fact that there have been a number of student parties on campus, which have resulted in a much larger number of police fines, of £200 to each student. More and more fines have been handed out by police at parties and gatherings around the country and particularly in the South East recently. The University (and the Union) are concerned that the next level of fines issued will be much higher. This morning, the Government announced an on-the-spot fine increase from £200 to £800 for people attending house parties. £10,000 police fines have already been handed out to students at other universities. We strongly encourage students to follow lockdown guidance, to prevent the spread of the virus within the University community and also more widely within Brighton and Hove, and to avoid fines.

Brighton and Hove is still seeing a very high number of Covid cases due to the new more infectious strain of the virus, and hospitals are struggling to keep up with the demand for healthcare. This is bad news for anyone who may need medical attention for any reason, including having a bad reaction to alcohol or drugs.. Police presence on campus also creates an atmosphere of securitisation that negatively affects other students. We understand that people are lonely and there isn’t anything to do, but we really encourage you to find alternative ways of reaching out, just until the virus is under control.

You can still sign up to the Buddy Scheme to be matched with someone new, or attend virtual events through our What's On pages, or join the University of Sussex Discord and reach out to those who are still around. Finally it’s still legal (here’s the guidance) to meet up with your friends one on one for outdoor walks and exercise, as long as you’re socially distancing. It’s tough, and everyone bends the rules sometimes, but if there’s ever been a time to follow them as closely as possible and avoid big gatherings, it’s now.

No detriment

The officers have been having ongoing conversations with the University about implementing a no-detriment policy for this term. University management have asked the union to feed in to planning this policy in the coming weeks. They are concerned that many students are basing their expectations on how no-detriment looked last term, and want to insist that it will not be the same. We want students to be reassured that we are using responses from our survey investigating assessments and exceptional circumstances claims to inform the planning around no detriment.

Rent strike

The university has previously stated that they will not be meeting with autonomous groups of students who are rent striking outside of formal structures. This position has not changed, and in response the officers will be writing to the Vice-Chancellor inviting him to attend a meeting with students who are on rent strike, that is facilitated by the union. It is hoped that this will provide a space for students to discuss the terms of their strike with the University.

Private renters

The officers have asked the University to consider joining the union in writing to landlords within the city to ask them to give rent relief to students who are not able to return to their properties. This proposal will be taken back to university leadership.

Issues with Panopto

Since the beginning of the pandemic, students have experienced disruptive issues with the University’s lecture recording system, Panopto, which have been particularly difficult for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. This has been raised before with senior management throughout the year. The University introduced a policy where staff are required to go through their lectures manually and ensure there are no errors. Staff, who are already facing workload issues, simply do not have the time to do this, leaving students with inaccessible resources. Staff are insisting that there needs to be a digital solution to this problem. Management have responded by directing people towards - a short term solution, aimed at minimising transcription errors. The officers will continue to lobby management for a longer term solution.