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YUSU sends open letter to Vice Chancellor expressing concerns

A joint open letter has been written asking the VC to tackle finance, online learning and mental health

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Image Credit: John Husband

YUSU have written an open letter to send to the Vice Chancellor, Charlie Jeffery and the University Executive Board, outlining student concerns and how YUSU feels they should be addressed.

The open letter comes after the first meeting of the Ideas Forum representatives, consisting of elected student officers and college and society leaders. They discussed the recently set up ‘YUSUggestions’ page where students could suggest ideas on how to improve the University. The open letter addresses these ideas.

The letter starts with showing what YUSU has achieved over the past term. This list includes reopening of the Emergency Student Support Fund and the #Don’tRentYet campaign which aims to prevent landlords taking advantage of students and forcing them to make decisions early. YUSU have also aimed to support students living in on-campus accommodation by providing them with support packages and providing outdoor space for those who are isolating. Nationally, YUSU have jointly written a letter to the Universities Minister demanding a government led response for student hardship during Covid-19 and securing press coverage to try and tackle the lazy narrative that has blamed students for the rise in Covid-19 cases.

The letter uses these successes to highlight that “we can win meaningful change for students” but there are still many issues that YUSU remain anxious about.

Finance is a significant concern with YUSU raising concerns about accounts that York businesses are not providing students with furlough pay simply because they are students and rising rent prices both on and off campus. YUSU ask the University to ensure that the Emergency Student Support Fund continues and that the University works with the City of York Council to tackle negligent landlords.

The quality of online learning is also addressed with the open letter pointing out that “contact hours have been reduced and students have been put under great amounts of stress, often with poor internet access. Increasing training for staff and creating more dialogue in seminars can address this”
The letter also asks for a greater clarity surrounding assessments and funding for societies.

The mental health and wellbeing of students is also a problem YUSU suggests needs to be tackled and the letter states that “we need to increase and sustain the support available as well as signpost the services available to us at the University.” The reaction of the media has clearly had negative effects on student wellbeing and YUSU asks the University to “join us in fighting locally and nationally to put the interests of students first.”

Finally, YUSU asks the University to be transparent about the plans for teaching and assessments in Term 2 and 3 and to “approach students for feedback, about their modules and about their wider experiences, with clear communications of how these can be addressed.” Interestingly, the open letter makes no reference to a reduction of tuition fees, something students have been campaigning for since March 2020.

The letter ends with YUSU stating that “we are incredibly proud of the talents and of the ambitions of our student community. It is the staff and students of this University that makes this campus such a brilliant place to study and to socialise. We want to work with you to ensure that all these ambitions and talents can be fulfilled, at a term of great uncertainty for us all.”

To sign the open letter, you can visit Let's work together - a letter from students at the University of York (google.com)

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