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Save our receptions: College chairs speak out against proposed University plans

A statement co-written by the college chairs of Alcuin, Derwent and James speaks out against the proposed reductions of college reception opening times

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Image Credit: Annie Watson

Earlier today, 27 March, the college chairs of Alcuin, Derwent and James released a statement informing students of the University's proposed changes to college reception opening times. The statement is also supported by the other college chairs, as well as YUSU President, Patrick O’Donnell. In a statement to Nouse the University told us that these changes are planned to be implemented in 'August 2021' and that they 'will monitor the impact of the changes every quarter.'

The statement firstly gives an overview of the proposed changes, which are as follows:

  1. ‘Receptions to be closed past 11pm’
  2. ‘Receptions to be closed on weekends’
  3. ‘Replaced by a mobile service with an unknown response time’

On the official University of York website, it is stated that all college receptions (except for Wentworth) are currently open 24 hours, seven days a week, which would change if these measures were to be implemented. It is not yet known when the proposed measures will come into effect.

The college chairs highlighted the negative impacts of these plans on students, telling Nouse: ‘we are speaking out because we are looking out for our students’ welfare. Receptions offer more than just picking up a key-card and parcels, they offer a point of contact, are a mental health and safety support network.’

The timing of these changes amidst the global Covid-19 pandemic was also mentioned in the statement. The chairs say that ‘student experience and mental health have been so dramatically affected’ due to the pandemic, and that the need to cut costs should not affect student wellbeing.

The chairs go on to say they are ‘sympathetic’ of the financial strains caused by Covid-19, but argue that ‘there are other areas in which cuts could be made which don’t affect student wellbeing.’ The chairs’ told Nouse that ‘during a global pandemic and a mental-health crisis, it is essential to maintain or even improve the current welfare support available’.

The statement argues that ‘at no point during the planning process was a meaningful consultation with the service users (students) attempted.’ It goes on to discuss how the college chairs ‘were told to keep the matter confidential until the changes were confirmed.’

This issue of a lack of student consultation was highlighted further, with the chairs’ statement that ‘the University must not be allowed to set the precedent of making fundamental changes to the student experience without any prior student consultation.’

On the issue of student consultation, the chairs told Nouse: ‘in the past the University has made every effort to consult student representatives when making major changes, with college chairs securing a new COVID testing centre on campus east, and streamlining communications to students.

‘We find it disappointing that the University has now made the decision to plan such major changes to reception services without consulting ourselves or the actual service users - students. We are now asking the University to reconsider the proposals, starting from scratch and to listen to student voices every step of the way when determining the future of college receptions.’

To conclude their statement, the chairs state that they are ‘publicly requesting that the University withdraws this proposal to allow for proper student consultation on the future of your college receptions.’

The statement ends with a link to the petition created by the chairs on this issue, which can be found here.

Nouse contacted the University for their response on this issue. When we asked about the measures the University will implement to replace the services provided by the receptions, their spokesperson told us:

'“College Receptions are here to help students, assist with day-to-day queries and manage mail collection in some areas. We’re updating the service to offer the best service possible and be more responsive to student needs; providing greater flexibility whilst continuing to assist with welfare needs.

“No college receptions will be closing. A new mobile response team, with at least 6-8 night-time mobile personnel, will provide overnight support where needed and respond to calls for assistance and security concerns, going to the student rather than the student having to find assistance.

We will still have at least 35 University Reception team members across all seven reception points in college areas between 7am and 11pm. Four receptions will incorporate the new mobile night-time and weekend support between 11pm and 7am, and three receptions will operate 24 hours a day, all seven days a week.”

We also asked about how students will be able to use the streamline taxis service where they can get college receptions to pay for their taxi if they have no money. Their spokesperson explained that:

'Following Covid-19 guidance, the team changed over to a new 'cashless' system last October whereby any receptionist team member can request a taxi online.

“From September, the receptionist - day, night, and weekend - can book over the phone and record the request at the nearest reception PC remotely, so there will be no loss of service to students in this situation.'

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