This was originally published in The Student on 4th December.
We feel that this semester has been incredibly successful for EUSA and Edinburgh students. The four sabbatical officers have been working hard on our manifesto promises but the most exciting thing has been seeing our new democratic structures flourish. We have already seen a dozen or so successful campaigns co-ordinated through our structures but entirely student-led. This is fantastic.
The biggest campaign by some way was our Defend Education campaign around the NUS’s national demonstration. 200 Edinburgh students travelled down to London to fight for free education paid for through progressive taxation, and for decent jobs for everyone. This is just short of our numbers in 2010 at a demonstration over 5 times the size. Edinburgh is clearly leading the way in the fight against austerity.
The demo has been my main focus for some months now, along with various bits of internal work which is important but not very interesting for most people, but External Affairs Council has been successful in other areas too. We successfully won the campaign for International Student Fees to be fixed, and are awaiting a concrete proposal from the University, which we can expect next month. We also organised for the Scottish Trade Union Congress demonstration against austerity, and co-ordinated a visit of two Palestinians from our twin university, Birzeit, in the West Bank. Next semester it looks like our priorities will be around accommodation, ethical investment and continuing the Defend Education campaign.
Max Crema, Vice President Services, has been keen to support student organisations. He is working on providing a more permanent space for the Hearty Squirrel Food Co-operative and has been successful in setting up an Art Committee to curate our new gallery in the Teviot Study. He was also active in defending the Bongo Club, which has now successfully found a new home on the Cowgate. It will re-open there in February. Finally, his manifesto pledge to refurbish the Teviot Underground has now been achieved, and is host to a full programme of events.
Andrew Burnie, Vice President Academic Affairs, has been working with Academic Council on a variety of projects. Two student-led task groups have been set up. One deals with issues around Feedback and how it can be improved for students across the university. The other is trying to find out what hidden costs students incur on different course, with the aim of first publishing them and then pressuring the university to eliminate them. In addition to this, some work is being done on improving the provision of podcasting of lectures as both a revision tool and a means for ensuring that the content is accessible to everyone, regardless of their access requirements or learning style. Finally, we are all very busy promoting the 5th annual Teaching Awards – don’t forget to nominate someone!
Hazel Marzetti, Vice President Societies and Activities, has focused on welfare aspects of her role this semester. Term kicked off with a remarkably successful Wellbeing Week. This was a series of events encompassing everything from meditation to stand-up comedy all around the issue of wellbeing. Each of the twelve events was well attended and participants clearly gained a lot from them. Another big project is Zero Tolerance, the campaign to fight sexual harassment in our buildings. We are remarkably proud of our recent accreditation by the national campaign and look forward to going further in promoting safety in our venues. Finally, Welfare Council has worked with the Sports Union on a ‘Healthy Body, Healthy Mind’ campaign, which promotes physical health as a means for achieving better mental health. This is an ongoing campaign.
Overall, I feel that Edinburgh students have achieved a lot this semester but there is always room for improvement. We have lots of ideas for next semester in the pipeline but there is always room for more student-led ideas. Do come along to one of the Student Councils next semester and get involved. Information is available here: http://www.eusa.ed.ac.uk/democracy-and-campaigns/opencouncils/
And from everyone at EUSA – good luck with your exams and deadlines, have a great holiday!