What do we hope to achieve?
The aims of this campaign are the following:
- To halt the implementation of the hall review proposal in its' current form
- To work with RHS and University Management to find a proposal that suits everyone, and that doesn't put student lives at risk
THESE are the reasons why we are fighting this proposal:
A safe place for first year students
These changes will abolish over 60% of staff, and drastically reduce the number of staff living in halls (to minimise lost rent opportunities given to live-in pastoral care staff). Instead of a dedicated team in each hall, RHS is proposing a "Hub" in Stoke Bishop, Clifton, and the City Centre, with a view to creating one for the new Temple Meads campus (due for completion in 2021/22). This will require students to go to the "Hub" in their area (that will cover multiple halls; 6 in Stoke Bishop alone) if they need any help, advice, or support.
This will result in very impersonal pastoral care. If vulnerable students do not feel comfortable reaching out for help, the potential consequences are devastating. We believe that, should these changes be implemented, we will see devastating consequences.
To keep our communities intact
Since the university opened its first hall of residence (Clifton Hill House) in 1909, halls have developed their own character, events, and traditions. These include events like formal dinners, The Constitution Ball, Churchill Bulldog, Wills Bond Night, The Founders' Ball... the list goes on. These have been historically been organised by a JCR Committee in each hall (supported by Wardens, DWs, and SRs), Alumni Associations (Manor Hall, for example), and individual student committees for the summer Balls.
Under this new proposal, JCR Committees will be abolished in favour of "Student Representatives" who will work with the SU to put on hall events. This gives control of hall events to the SU which have traditionally been organised by students, for students. Other hall traditions, such as Formal Dinners, The Constitution Ball, and The Founders' Ball, will be taken over by the new Residential Life team in each "Hub".
Because of this, we believe that these staples of hall life will disappear, given that staff will simply not be invested enough in each hall to run them. The new student "Mentors" will earn c.£10 per hour (the same as first year bar staff), working 5-10 hours per week, leaving no time for working on hall events. With a reduction in staff of over 60%, and a cut in the administrative team by over 50%, these new staff will simply not have the time to complete their work and continue these events.
Keep student wellbeing and academic schools separate
RHS is proposing integrating halls of residence with Student Services, in order to make wellbeing services more accessible. Although we agree that specialised support needs to be more readily available, with the abolition of hall teams, students are left with much less support in case of academic difficulties. Under the current system, Wardens, DWs, and SSAs support students through "Extenuating Circumstances" applications, and any other processes required.
It is essential that students have support from elsewhere, other than their academic circles, especially if they need to contest something, or otherwise have difficulties navigating the complex systems in place. Not all students self-refer, and many need ongoing support through these processes, so we need dedicated people in each hall to ensure that all students are supported in their personal lives and academic work. With the approximate equivalent of 1 hall team dealing with multiple halls worth (6 in Stoke Bishop) of administrative work and student support, the level of student support will be much reduced. Because of this, a lot of the work will be shifted over to Academic Tutors in Schools. Senior Tutors have all expressed concern at this plan, due to the reduction in support for students.
Keep the alumni associations
Almost every hall has an alumni association and an advisory committee of some form. These exist to keep former residents up to date with current events at their old home, to raise funds for facilities for current students, and, in some cases, to organise events in hall (such as the Manor Hall Summer Ball). Alumni also provide advice and networking opportunities for current students in the development of their careers.
The new proposal leaves a question mark over the future of these associations. The review does not specify how these will work from September 2018, and options are still being explored. Under the new system, there is serious concern that no one will have the time to meet with alumni as there will be a much smaller team in each "Hub", dealing with multiple halls (6 in Stoke Bishop alone)! This role is currently filled in each hall by the Wardens, who can speak with unmatched detail about where money, generously donated by alumni, would be best spent. If no one is keeping in touch with the alumni, students risk losing valuable opportunities, not just in hall, but for their future as well.