All entries for February 2005

February 24, 2005

VISA CHARGES – PARLIAMENTARY LOBBY

The Government (in particular the Home Office) is sticking the knife into International Students.

Non-EU students currently fork out over £10 billion in tuition fees and living costs each year and basically bankroll higher education in this country. Their tuition fees also continue to rise above the rate of inflation.

Now the Government has introduced yet another cash grab. They're decided to double the amount it costs from students to extend their leave to remain (their visa) in the UK.

From (fittingly) April 1st charges are set to rise from £155 to £250 for postal applications and from £250 to £500 for ‘premium’ in-person applications.

The Students' Union thinks this is outrageous and so myself and Kam went down to London yesterday with the rest of the Aldwych Group (the SUs of the top 19 Universities) to see what we could do.

Check out my gallery for photos: link

One of our primary aims was to get all our local MPs to sign an Early Day Motion against the charges. You can read it here: link

We succeeded in getting four of them on board. Only two remain:

Geoffrey Robinson - Labour MP for Coventry North West
House of Commons Phone number: 020 7219 4504
Constituency Phone number: 024 7625 7870

Bob Ainsworth - Labour MP for Coventry North East
ainsworthr@parliament.uk
House of Commons Phone number: 020 7219 4047
Constituency Phone number: 024 7622 6707

Help out our campaign – Contact these MPs and ask them to stand up for international students.


February 16, 2005

LITTLE THINGS THAT MAKE A DIFFERENCE

I think getting the little things right is really important.

The Union spends a lot of time campaigning on the ‘big issues’ that effect our students (tuition fees, library core texts, exam timetables, buses etc…) however it often takes an excruciating amount of time to make progress in these areas… also if we’re honest these aren’t always the issues that really get under people’s skin.

People get pissed off when tiny little things they take for granted don’t work as well as they should. On the other hand a nice smile from someone serving you in a shop, or somebody waiting an extra second just to hold a door open for you can leave you in a good mood for the rest of the day.

I guess a positive or negative experience is really just a combination of lots of tiny little experiences. Cumulatively they can make the difference between a place seeming nice, or looking a mess, and between your day being bareable or being a pain. Of course the other beauty of ‘the little things’ is that they’re relatively easy to put right.

So, People of the Blogs, I want your feedback. Unleash your pent up rage and tell me:

WHAT LITTLE THINGS ON CAMPUS REALLY GET ON YOUR NERVES?

Ask your friends and get them involved too.

Here are my two biggest pet hates (besides the wobbly tables in Cholo – which I swear we’ll fix as soon as we’ve got the money!) to get you started:

1. The Purple Gravel Outside Humanities
What the hell is this about?!? It gets everywhere!! It looks hideous!! Why do it? What’s wrong with grass? Grass is green, soft, and easy on the eye. In fact I’m going out on a limb here and say that grass is pretty much a timeless classic. Purple gravel on the other hand?… not so much.

2. Tocil Desks
The desks in Tocil bedrooms are attached directly onto the wall with no gap down the back of them. This means that all the wires and cables for your computer, or stereo, can’t be hidden away round the back but have to be pilled higeldy pigeldy on top of the desk and even in some cases come over the front of it in order to reach a socket. Aaarrghhh!!!

I’m going to have to stop typing now – I’ve become too angry.


February 14, 2005

PRESIDENT'S BLOG LAUNCHED

Hi. My name’s Simon and I’m the President of the Students’ Union.

I graduated with a 2:1 in Philosophy and Politics this summer and since August 1st 2004 I’ve been 'the primary representative of the student body' here at Warwick. I’m a full-time Sabbatical Officer. I sit on key University bodies including University Senate, Council and Steering. I chair the Union’s Executive Committee (its equivalent of a Cabinet). I’m responsible for Union staff and officers. I oversee Union policy, and interpret the Union Constitution. Finally I’m tasked with developing strategy.

My office is upstairs in Union North (directly above Lazerlizard). I work all hours of the day and when I’m in I try to keep the door open all the time. I always welcome visitors.

– - – - – - – - – - – - – - –

I’m launching this blog tonight because I’m all too aware that there’s a danger of losing your way during your second 6 months as a Sabbatical.

In our first 6 months this Sabbatical Team has achieved a hell of a lot:

  • We’ve simplified and strengthened Union democracy (with a brand new Constitution) making it a real force for change, and engaging people in meetings, elections and a referendum in record numbers.
  • We’ve lowered drinks prices and reintroduced happy hours.
  • We oversaw a £300k cap-ex spend on Union South that’s given us among other things a separate entry to the newly extended Graduate Bar.
  • We’ve got more people involved in a greater range of Sports Club and Society activities than ever before.
  • We’ve got swipe card access to Union events and on-line ticketing up and running along with the brand new Ents Outlet ‘Advance’.
  • We’ve staked out gutsy and forceful positions within the University and further afield on everything from Warwick in Asia and cannabis to the National Student Survey and international student visa charging.
  • We’ve fostered the most active SSLC system in memory and harnessed it to get proper student feedback on academic issues that really matter; like the earlier publication of timetables.
  • We’ve helped free AWS from the batch scheme to allow it to return to its core function.
  • We produced the much acclaimed ’Housing Guide’ and held an extremely successful Housing Day.
  • The list goes on and on

Nevertheless there is sometimes a tendency for Sabbs to run out of steam. Once your successor’s been appointed and you’re getting to the end of Term 2 it can be all too easy to drift and become what’s sometimes been called a “Caretaker Sabb”.

I’m absolutely determined not to let this happen, which is why I want to use this blog to restate my key objectives (or rather the major themes I hope to adhere to) for the remainder of my term of office.

This is, in a way, my manifesto for the next six months:

1. Refocusing the Union’s Membership Services:
AWS must now be allowed to get back to its core function. The quality, continuity, and consistency of our representation needs to improve. Union democratic meetings have to become more accessible. Sports clubs and societies need more satisfactory levels of support. We have to stop reinventing the wheel every year when it comes to training. Representation in general needs more funding. We need to slim down and rationalize the way we conduct Union democracy. The question of Sabbatical support requires a solution.

2. Building Better Union-University Relationships:
We need to build better levels of trust and understanding as well as a wider appreciation of the role the Union plays in the student experience. We must safeguard the Union’s independence and be cautious and careful in our approach to the devolved department discussions. Nevertheless we should foster a reputation for collaborative working and try to resolve long-standing issues that have plagued successive years such as the ongoing disputes over Warwick Accommodation. We must secure the necessary funds for a rebuild of Union South in 2006.

3. Taking Charge of Union Democracy:
Union democracy has been drifting for too long. An active, engaged student body is in the Union’s best interests and is a powerful weapon with which to secure change. We need to find better ways of engaging with Union Council. We need to cease focusing on the simple mechanics of allowing democracy to take place (achieving quorum etc…) and put greater emphasis on the quality of the democratic decisions that we make. We should be making informed, responsible choices with the best interests of students and the organisation as our paramount concern. We deserve a small, rational and practical policy file that we can execute in full.

4. Dealing with the Culture of ‘Harsh Discipline’:
The University still has a tendency to treat its fee-paying students like its subjects rather than its customers. In the case of the University’s current policy on cannabis in halls of residence it has shown its willingness to use its extensive powers in a draconian, disproportionate and outdated fashion. This has a terrible effect on the welfare of our students. We have to secure a change in this policy.

5. Encouraging Debate on Campus:
We must be wary of the growing tendency to take debate and opinion too personally. The recent outburst of intimidation and hatred that greeted an article in the Boar on the subject of China is case in point. We must remind each other that we can disagree without falling out. We can feel passionate about something without getting angry. This is a University and fundamentally we all came here to learn and to talk about ideas in a free and open way. We must not be afraid to do so.

6. Getting the Small Things Right:
Small annoying problems can be terribly frustrating. The cumulative effect of a few tiny persistent issues can be infuriating. The classic example of this is the wobbly tables in Cholo. We will budget to replace these as soon as is humanly possible. Generally however we need to foster a culture in which everyone appreciates the importance of getting the small things right, and takes the initiative to flag them up or get them sorted when they notice them.


February 2005

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