YUSU announce plans to help students through lockdown


In order to combat the challenges of dealing with Covid-19, YUSU President Patrick O'Donnell has unveiled the actions that the Union has taken.

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By Joseph Higgins

YUSU president Patrick O’Donnell has announced several of the Union’s new plans for supporting students through the continuing pandemic during the rest of term. Working closely alongside the university, O’Donnell has announced there will be numerous improvements in quality of life for students both off and on Campus for the remaining month until Christmas, and presumably to continue into the new year.

Firstly, the Union has worked with the University to cordon off areas of outdoor space near campus accommodation blocks so that isolating students have the opportunity to go outside and get some fresh-air while remaining isolated from other students and maintaining correct distancing protocols. These “fresh-air zones” are available to any student, however their use will have to be regulated via bookings so as to avoid isolating households accidentally mixing with one another, breaking the law and endangering themselves. O’Donnell has confirmed, after liaising with the University Estates team, that “all student residents on campus will have access to outdoor fresh air spaces.” He further clarified that bookings are to be handled by each college to “ensure the safety of you and others.”

Secondly, new marquees, or tented areas have been established around Piazza and Market Square, akin to The Forest these are bookable spaces for students to get outside and away from the mental burdens of being forced indoors all day. Unlike YUSU-run spaces like the Forest, these marquees are university operated and their booking is handled through the university booking system. In his announcement of the project, O’Donnell has stated that he and YUSU are trying to work with the University in order to transition these spaces from legally indoor to outdoor and provide heating. However, as this has not yet occurred at the time of writing, the marquees are legally indoor locations and booking the spaces will reflect this. Unfortunately, due to the lockdown commencing 5 November, all YUSU venues and YUSU bars must close, including The Forest. However, O’Donnell has said that “[YUSU] are actively speaking with the University about how we can create a similar venue in term 2 and 3, to put on a huge range of Covid-secure events and activities, given the huge success of The Forest to date.” It is as yet unclear what the fate of the legally distinct university-run Marquees will be, given the government’s exemptions on many lockdown rules for universities.

Next, the laundry facilities across the university, at present run by Circuit Laundry, had their machines entirely replaced over the summer. Furthermore, the contracts for laundry provision to the University are up for renewal in March 2021 and YUSU have claimed they have been contacted by 15 different suppliers interested in taking control of the vital student resource. O’Donnell’s statement makes clear that the Union and University will carefully weigh their options.

Finally, to punctuate O’Donnell’s first announcement of quality of life improvements for students, First Bus has established an anonymous feedback service that can be accessed here. This resource should be useful for any students that feel as though the bus services around York could be improved, and provides a platform for the discussion of late services and timetabling issues which feeds directly back to First Bus.

Following the announcement on 31 October that the nation is to undergo a month-long lockdown starting on the 5 November, YUSU released a further statement, discussing tentative plans to increase the scale of Online Entertainment options the Union is providing, as well as plans to make YUSUbars food and drinks menus available for delivery on Campus via their app by the end of the week. Upon being contacted for comment, O’Donnell could not give a precise date when the delivery service would become available but did pledge that YUSU’s teams are working hard “looking at the safest and most efficient way to provide [the delivery service] as soon as we can” and will update students via YUSU’s usual points of contact when the process is finalised.