Student Officers Blog

This is where you'll find updates from your Student Officer team!

Mon 15 May 2017

Consultation Response: Expansion of Undergraduate Medical Education

Jack Haywood, the KCLSU VP Education (Health), and Omar Risk, the GKT MSA President, have been working together to respond to the Department of Health’s proposal to expand undergraduate medical education in England. More details of the proposal can be found here. As the representatives of the medical student community at King’s, we have serious concerns about the government’s plans.

The proposal outlines an expansion of medical student places across the country. There will be a national increase of 500 places from 2018/19. King’s has expressed interest in taking some of these places, and are awaiting a response from the government.

From 2019/20, there will then be an additional 1000 places across England, for which universities will need to bid. There is also the possibility of new medical schools opening and taking some of these spaces.

The consultation is asking for thoughts on how these additional 1000 places should be allocated. Alongside this, there are other points being proposed;

  1. Medical students may be asked to comply with a return of service agreement or pay additional fees (i.e. if you are a medical student, you would need to return a number of years’ service to the NHS upon graduation. If you don’t, you will need to pay back the costs that were not covered by your tuition fees)

  2. Removal of international students cap to study medicine. However, they will need to pay international fees (which are currently £17050 in non-clinical years and £39200 in clinical years) as well as approximately £110 000 in additional placement costs. The latter cost used to be covered by the government, but this consultation is suggesting students would need to fund this themselves from 2018/19.

KCLSU and GKT MSA have responded to the consultation as we have serious concerns about:

  1. Expanding medical student places, especially here at King’s which is already such a large medical school

  2. The criteria used to allocate these additional places, particularly around ensuring high quality medical education

  3. The return of service proposal, and the effect this could have on our students

  4. The huge surge in international student fees

  5. The possible implications of high quality placement provision if new medical schools open.

We have written a letter to the Department of Health. And here are our consultation responses which explicitly express our concerns.

KCLSU and GKT MSA urge all healthcare students, staff and other key users of medical education and the health service to respond to this consultation. You can respond here - it closes on 2 June.

If you want any more information or want to chat through any of the consultation or our responses, please contact Jack Haywood, VP Education (Health) at jack.haywood@kclsu.org, or Omar Risk, MSA President, at omar.risk@kcl.ac.uk.

 
No comments
Fri 12 May 2017

Mental Health Awareness Week

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and I thought it would be positive to raise awareness of Union activities around mental health and outline some of the issues faced by the student community and society.  

On World Mental Health Week last year, I released a personal blog to the whole of the King’s community, students and staff:  

‘I want to tell you that the perception of someone who seems high functioning is not always a reality. There have been a lot of times as a student when I’ve considered dropping out because of my mental health or quitting my role as your Student Officer. Sometimes when all you want to do is lay in bed and not speak to anyone, paying bills, doing extra jobs, studying and going to the library can be impossible, as can getting out of bed to brush your teeth or go into the outside world. Daily interactions can be at best a challenge and at worst impossible. Your Union President has mental health problems.’ 

I received a lot of emails and had extremely positive conversations with students and staff across King’s after this piece was released, and I am hugely grateful for them.  

But I didn’t publish my personal story for encouragement or personal comfort, I published it to spark a conversation at King’s around mental health, and, more than this, proper focus and attention to be paid to improving mental health. 

There has been a huge amount of activity since this. I asked College Council and the College’s Senior Leadership to instigate a mental health strategy group, which I currently sit on. This group brings together different staff across the institution to implement improved mental health provisions and to give recommendations on improvements to mental health.  

I also began work with the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, encouraging students to join their research programme so we could look further into the links between rising student debt and mental health. There has been a sharp increase in mental health cases among students since the trebling of tuition fees in 2010, but there is little data to try and establish the link between increasing levels of student debt and mental health. As I wrote in a guest blog for the Institute in April, as someone from a widening participation background: 

‘There isn’t yet clear-cut evidence about the link between the threat of debt and mental health problems amongst students. From my own experience, however, the balancing act ?between avoiding huge amounts of debt whilst maintaining both academic work and unstable casual work is a cause for anxiety amongst young people.’  

 

There is a plethora of other Union activity other than representative roles, including everything from a joint member of staff between KCLSU and KCL in wellbeing to the mental health project being undertaken in our KCLSU Advice Team.  

 

One part of mental health awareness that we need to highlight on Mental Health Awareness Week is that of students of colour. For years, our students of colour have been telling us that they need more competent mental health care from services that understand their context. A 2012 report highlighted that:  

  • At least half of disabled people of colour live in acute poverty, compared with 32% of all disabled people in the population as a whole. Less than 4/10 BME disabled people of working age are in employment.  

  • Social isolation is higher among disabled people of colour, in particular for women of colour, migrants and carers who are people of colour.  

 

We can see the explicit links here between debt, poverty and disabled people of colour. Mental health is an intersectional issue that cuts across different identities and affects groups differently. 

 The report recommended that institutions move beyond cultural competency training to care that is under the ‘PLATO’ model: 

  1. ‘Person-centred’ – engaging with user-led organisations to understand cultural dimensions of person-centred planning.  

  1. Local – support existing people of colour disabled organisations.  

  1. Advocacy – build networks of community and self-advocates, who can improve service access and outcomes for people of colour who are disabled.  

  1. Translation – refresh translation strategies, work to develop more effective translation opportunities. 

  1. Outreach – improve outreach in local communities, who should contribute to the development of community support networks. 

Mental health provisions at King’s are a long way from meeting a model like this, but to actually make a difference in society, we need to support the health of our students of colour.  

We need to work to partner more with local community organisations, and the service at King’s needs more resources to adequately implement a model that is competent for students of colour. A personalised service recognises different identities and barriers that students face will, further, be beneficial in improving the mental health of all students.  

This work will be integral to the formulation of the mental health strategy going forward so that the concerns that have been raised year on year by students of colour are acknowledged.  

We have a long way to go at King’s, as does every University, in adequate and competent mental health support for all students. The mental health strategy work that we have launched with College will, I hope, look into funding for mental health support. The first thing that we should recognise is the size of the task at hand.  

In my time as President, I have prioritised improving mental health for all students, through revealing my story, partnering with other organisations and beginning the strategy work at King’s. I look forward to seeing this work continue in the years to come, and more increasing work to tackle student mental health.  

Thu 04 May 2017

KCLSU can report it believes that there has been a successful boycott of the National Student Survey

We believe that the fill in rate is below 50% and therefore the boycott campaign at King’s to stop students filling in the National Student Survey in protest against the Government’s Higher Education reforms, including the rising of home tuition fees, has been successful.

 

When students first began this campaign, many said that we wouldn’t succeed, either because students are apathetic towards the reforms or to the Students’ Union. Both have been proven to be wrong by our success.

 

KCLSU has demonstrated that we are a truly representative Union that has fought, and won, in the best interests of our members. We are the representative body of students and students are engaged with their Union and have demonstrated it, and we will continue to fight always in their interests.

 

Students have wholeheartedly rejected King’s rising of their fees, with a colossal drop from the previous year in the NSS fill in rate.

 

We lobbied in the House of Lords and were mentioned several times in the debates there. We have protested, lobbied, flyered and held a speaking event. And we have won. 

 

This comes at the same time as the voice of students’ has been recognised nationally in the fight against the Higher Education and Research bill. There have been key concessions and amendments made to the bill including delaying the link between the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and fee rises until 2020/21. [include link to http://www.nusconnect.org.uk/articles/student-pressure-changes-face-of-he-bill]

 

There is a clear message I would like to give to Westminster, the sector, and to King’s itself: we will not give feedback data until you halt the rise in fees and come back to the table to negotiate with students on the HE reforms. No representative body of students in the country agrees wholeheartedly with these reforms, and it has led to a wedge between students and Universities across the country. When we should be working in partnership, we have come into conflict.

 

Unions will continue to do this as we have a duty to do what is in the best interests of students, and it will continue into the future at King’s until there are no more rises in tuition fees.

Mon 10 Apr 2017

A Union for All: On the welfare of our Jewish Students

KCLSU is committed to ensuring that every student can engage in the Union and feels empowered to celebrate their identities and make positive change. We've already been in contact with our Jewish Students' Society who have have said that "In light of the recent NUS report, we are happy to see that the students’ union has reiterated its commitment to working collaboratively with Jewish students to ensure a safe and engaging experience for Jews on campus" and who we plan to keep in close communication with about this project. As our safe space policy states, we are committed ‘to providing an inclusive and supportive space for all students’ and it is this commitment to safe space that ensures that we strive to indeed be a Union that not only includes Jewish students but actively engages them.

As your Union President, I would like to make it emphatically clear that I take the welfare of our Jewish students seriously.

After reading the National Union of Students (NUS) report on ‘The experience of Jewish students in 2016-17' and drawing on the personal experience I have had with our Jewish students on campus, I would like to reaffirm that KCLSU is a safe space for all Jewish students and that anti-Semitism, racism and abuse on campus is unacceptable and intolerable.

In terms of hate crime, the report states that the majority of Jewish students surveyed are ‘not very or not at all worried about being subject to verbal abuse, physical attack, vandalism, properly damage or theft because of their Jewish belief’. However, out of those who have experienced hate crime, the majority believed these incidents ‘were motivated by the perpetrator’s prejudice towards them based on their Jewish belief’. Even though this may only be a small number of students, it is still too many. No student should ever feel targeted because of their faith or identity.

Going beyond the NUS report,  the CST (Community Security Trust), a body that records ant-Semitic and racist events, reported that last year it saw a record level of anti-Semitic abuse occurring. In addition to this, the greatest amount of events occurred in London with a 62% rise on the previous year. Even though the report may not be directly about students, this in itself a concern to KCLSU due to the geographical location of the incidents.

It is clear that a statement affirming the importance of Jewish welfare on campus and stamping out ant-Semitism and racism is a start, but is not sufficient to ensure tangible change in our campus community.

NUS have suggested some practical considerations in their report for Students’ Unions, some of which are already resolved in terms of the experience and access for Jewish students to campus and there are some of which need to be further investigated:

  • Representation: As part of work with Jewish student welfare on campus, we need to and will investigate both the issues of participation of Jewish students in our democracy and I will ask that the Union identifies a Union representative contact for Jewish students in our structure. Throughout my time as Union President, I have been the point of contact between the Jewish Society and the Union. As part of my handover, I will ensure to pass this role to one of the newly elected Sabbatical officers.
  • Kosher food: We have some kosher provisions across all of our venues that serve food. If demand for the food is greater than we currently supply we can investigate expanding provision. If a student wishes to know more about the different food options for different dietary requirements please contact us.
  • Kosher accommodation: There is no current provision of kosher accommodation. There are kosher facilities in London that the College could more effectively reference to for specific need. We will engage with our Jewish Society to understand more about the need for kosher accommodation and empower them to work with College on this.
  • Timetabling: We are aware that there are some issues with timetabling on holy days in the Jewish calendar. We will work with the Chaplaincy and our Jewish Society to investigate and mitigate these as well as all religious groups. Being a person of faith should not mean you cannot fully access your academic life and practice your faith.

There is clearly work to do around Jewish welfare on campus, as well as to stamp out hate and bigotry alongside all forms of oppression. The first step in this process of supporting Jewish student welfare is to ensure that every Jewish student understands that the Union is committed to working towards being accessible and liberated. In order to fulfil this commitment, we will work together with our students to become a Union where all are empowered and can participate.

 

Ben Hunt 

KCLSU President 2017/17

Mon 30 Jan 2017

Statement on U.S. immigration ban

KCLSU extends our solidarity with those suffering in the United States and across the world as a result of Donald Trump’s executive order to ban access to the U.S. for nationals from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. This discriminatory act is one fuelled by islamophobia and we whole heartedly stand against it. The splitting up of families from one another and the forceful non-admittance of those who have every right to be in the United States is a violation of basic rights.

We are also extremely concerned with the indefinite suspension of entry for refugees fleeing conflict and war in Syria, and the suspension of the Refugee Admissions Programme. This is targeted and racialised scapegoating of minorities and it must be rejected.

We are disappointed by the response of our Prime Minister Theresa May on her recent visit and we call on the PM and the Government to stand up to President Trump, call out the rights violations and the the blatant islamophobia and racism explicit in these policies. 

We strongly condemn the actions of  Donald Trump and extend our support to those suffering. We also wish to support our Muslim community and to all others affected here at King’s. 

If you are able to, please attend a demonstration outside Downing Street this evening in response to Donald Trump. KCL Anti-Racism have organised an meeting point as well. KCL Anti-Racism: https://www.facebook.com/events/1854246204821698/

If you have any concerns following recent events, please email studentofficers@kclsu.org.

Thu 26 Jan 2017

Positive Peer Scheme For Healthcare Students by Healthcare Students

Written by Jack Haywood, Vice President for Education (Health) 2016/17

The wellbeing of students is becoming more and more of a priority at King’s. Many studies across higher education institutions from across the UK and around the world have found that peer led support is one of the best ways to promote the wellbeing of students. After discussions between Jack Haywood, our Vice President for Education (Health), the staff and administration from the four health faculties at King’s, King’s Wellbeing, and students from across the faculties, a Positive Peer Scheme for healthcare students has been formed. While initially this scheme is just for healthcare students, it is anticipated that if this is successful, then it can be rolled out right across the university.

Using a peer-to-peer approach, the Positive Peers help enhance the personal and collective wellbeing of King’s healthcare students by giving evidence-based information, sharing experiences and connecting students with health-related resources. The activities of the Peers have a common purpose: To help create a flourishing community by promoting, supporting and celebrating the wellbeing of healthcare students at King’s. Through health promotion and support, the Positive Peers are a key component of the King’s Wellbeing Team and contribute to the larger health faculties’ commitment to improve student mental health and wellbeing.

We are looking for peer facilitators to lead this project with King’s Wellbeing! The role is a great add on to any health course as this allows you to develop the skills to deal with a whole range of issues and support people in the best way possible. You would be able to facilitate group sessions, but also be involved with the development of the scheme and providing much needed and appreciated support to students.

If you apply and are successful, you will be given training by specialists for the role, receive a certificate to add into your portfolio and any feedback about facilitation.

If you are a healthcare student, and not in the final year of your studies, you can apply! You can find out more information here, and the application form is here. Please return this to Julia Haas by 8 February (Julia.haas@kclsu.org)

Thu 19 Jan 2017

Boycott the NSS: don’t fill the survey to stop raising fees

Written by our Student Officer Team 2016/17

This week, the Principal, Ed Bryne, and President of the Union Ben Hunt released a joint statement stating common issues with the Teaching Excellence Framework.

The government is allowing universities to raise their tuition fees year on year depending on their ranking in the new Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). The TEF is widely seen as a flawed system with metrics that are arbitrary and fail to really measure teaching quality as was mentioned int he joint statement between the union and the principal. 

As a union we campaigned and lobbied heavily to try and get the university to not partake in the programme that will see institutions ranked Bronze, Silver and Gold and have the ability to raise fees as a result. Despite many people having deep reservations, the institution has decided to partake. 

We believe this to be a decision detrimental to the students of King's and we have one method of action left. 

The National Student Survey is sent to all final year students to evaluate their experience at university. This year the NSS is being used as part of the TEF; ultimately it is being used to raise tuition fees. We are calling on all final year students not to fill in the survey. Ignore the emails. Do nothing. This is collective action with fellow students all across the country not being party to the implementation of a flawed system and the potential exponential raising of fees for future students. 

Of course, providing feedback can be a good way of getting your experience heard so we recommend filling in module evaluation forms and the King's student survey that will be released. Not filling in the NSS does not mean your voice won't be heard. 

So, as you receive emails in the coming weeks asking you to take the survey remember what the results are being used for. Do not fill it in. Boycott the NSS. 

You can follow the campaign here.

Prevent and email monitoring

Written by our Student Officers 2016/17

In response to this story on Prevent and the monitoring of email at King's:

It is disturbing to find that the Prevent agenda is embedding itself so deeply in the lives of students. The message which says that it will even monitor students as a result of the Prevent duty on their personal devices and threatens to pass on information to law enforcement, is a violation of students' trust. 

Students who have not committed any crimes are being treated as suspects. It is important to note that Muslim students are most likely to suffer from the effects of the Prevent duty, and this discrimination we find unacceptable. 

This incident is only the recent manifestation of the Prevent duty and it only goes on to show the insidious and flawed nature of the Duty.

Mon 16 Jan 2017

Postgraduate representation and AGM

The KCLSU AGM will take place at Waterloo Campus on 26 of January, in G.79 from 6pm. We will be discussing Bush House, the NSS Boycott Campaign and presenting the work the Officer Team has been doing this year. Here’s why you should come and vote through our Special Resolution for Postgraduate Representation:

Written by Ben Hunt, KCLSU president 2016/17

Hi!

I have some very exciting news about Postgraduate Representation at KCLSU and the next Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Union. The Trustee Board have voted to put forward a special resolution for a full time Postgraduate Officer, and as Chair of the Trustee Board I’m writing this to tell you why this is so exciting.

Other than being such a significant proportion of the King’s student population, postgraduate students face their own issues both locally at King’s and nationally. Our Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) have campaigned over several years over having no proper pay or training: https://fightingcasualisation.org/2015/05/14/kings-gtas-call-for-an-end-to-exploitative-working-conditions/. There are stories of GTAs having to do dozens of hours of free labour a week to fit in with marking targets and preparation for seminars, in addition to this, they are often the first port of call for students looking for help. They are the most committed teachers at King’s and haven’t been shown respect and support for a long time.

Furthermore, mental health issues amongst postgraduates are rising due to the intense pressures they face and the huge amounts of debt they can incur. Students of colour are also less likely to progress to postgraduate study than white counterparts. Funding for many postgraduate programs in the arts have been cut over successive years by Government policy that sees postgraduate study as a way into a job rather than an academic contribution to society. We have seen increased fees and more and more people being priced out, underfunded and never recognised in postgraduate education.

Nationally and locally we need postgraduate representation now more than ever to fight against casualization and marketization, as well as to open up postgraduate study here at King’s to the marginalised and vulnerable.

We need to represent this huge group of our students and promote access to postgraduate education, as well as understanding the obstacles and challenges these students face more clearly. I will continue to support campaigns against postgraduate casualization.

The Annual General Meeting will be held on 26 January to vote on Postgraduate Representation, in time for this to be implemented this year, for the next election cycle. Please come to AGM and help pass this special resolution, as well as discussing other areas such as the NSS Boycott.

If you would like to know more about AGM, the Officer Structure or other topics discussed at the last Trustee Board, please email Representation@kclsu.org.

Wed 21 Dec 2016

Celebrating diversity and inclusion

Written by Ben Hunt, KCLSU President 2016/17

When I was LGBT+ Officer I carried on a campaign that had been running at King’s for several years to make the window representation at Strand more representative of the King’s community. LGBT+ students over several years had been concerned with the portrayal of Lord Carey of Clifton as an alumni who should be celebrated due to his views expressed during the debate regarding gay marriage. A petition was signed asking for his removal by hundreds of students several years ago, as well as policy being passed through our democratic system endorsing the Union to take this stance.

Motivated in part by this campaign, but also by a desire to ensure that the diversity of students and alumni at Kings was represented, I worked with the University on the digital display content which currently shows images about the past achievements of King’s, our present student and staff community and what mark King’s wishes to make in the future, in Service of Society. Over several years we have also worked on a number of other projects that seek to express the diversity of the King’s community.

The digital windows express a community which strives to be accepting of diversity and inclusive. It comes after a campaign of several years which was concluded through collaboration and a shared will of the Union and College to do more to represent what all of the King’s community does in service of society. It is this message, one of collaboration and inclusion, which I would like to emphasise. For journalists to employ language like ‘gaystapo’ which has very negative connotations for LGBT+ groups, as well as for people of colour and the Jewish community, is hurtful and harmful and creates a tone of division which this project does not represent.

I hope that my reasoning has been made clear. The campaign was a representative one and I ran it in my capacity as an elected officer. It is positive that we now celebrate a more representative sample of the King’s community, past, present and future which can inspire students, and alumni to look beyond the walls of King’s and outside into the world. The intention was never to create a climate of division in the King’s community, instead, to emphasise all of our strengths in accepting and supporting each other.

Thu 15 Dec 2016

NUS institutional Racism Review - A statement from your Student Officer team

Written by our Student Officer team

As members of the National Union of Students’ we would like to extend our solidarity with the NUS Black Students’ Campaign along with the full-time officers and National Executive Council (NEC) Members who define into the campaign.

NUS has gone through an Institutional Racism Review (IRR) as demanded by its president Malia Bouattia last year in her role as Black Students’ Officer. The review was called for as a result of the racism faced by people of colour within the National Union of Students and the wider student movement.  Last week NEC members of colour withdrew their labour from the NUS NEC meeting to mark a year since the review was called and to highlight the unacceptable conditions that students of colour, officers and volunteers continue to endure despite their invaluable contributions to the student movement.   

The IRR findings demonstrate severe institutional failings of the NUS towards its staff, elected officers and volunteers. The IRR outlines recommendations to the national union of which the organisation and president have pledged to implement immediately. .

It is important to note that racism and institutional failings are not unique to NUS and are present in every institution and student union across the country. NUS has made a crucial step towards improving the structures and cultures that permeate our student unions through the IRR. Student unions have a responsibility to emulate this.  Additionally, although the report provides the institutional language to tackle these some of failures it is not reflective of the lived experience of those who have previously and are still experiencing racism within the movement and in their roles.

We have seen the introduction of language declaring “misrepresentation” and statements calling people “out of touch” when the number of people of colour has been at its highest; we have seen a lack of committed support for people of colour from many within the movement; we have seen the mental and physical toll that the racism existent in the movement has on PoC, including those on NEC and the full-time officer team; and this year, from the moment the NUS Conference elected Malia Bouattia as their president, we have seen an institutional failure to protect her, ensure her wellbeing and support her.

It is time for the student movement to take a critical look inwards, and do better. We must not ignore the reality of the situation. In order to ensure our movement is strong, we must all work to listen to and combat the issues highlighted by Students, Officers and NEC members of colour and the Black Students’ Campaign. We cannot continue in this way; we must now work together to move forwards and create a movement that is truly inclusive, liberated and accessible for all.

Read here a statement from the NUS Black Students’ Campaign.

Thu 08 Dec 2016

Post-doctoral loans and part-time undergraduate maintenance loans

Written by Ben Hunt, KCLSU President 2016/17

Hi!

I am currently responding to the Government’s consultations on post-doctoral loans and part-time undergraduate maintenance loans. Here’s an update on those consultations, which close on 16 December – I’d really like to hear any comments you have.

The Government has released a consultation on the introduction of post-doctoral loans. They have committed to introduce loans that will be assessed by students’ household income.

The key terms of the proposed loan are:

  • individuals would be able to borrow up to 25,000.
  • the maximum course length to which a loan would apply would be six years.
  • the loan is not meant to cover all living fees or tuition fees, but as a contribution to the cost of study.
  • it is available to students who are not receiving the Research Council studentship.
  • the loan will become available in 2018/19, and is for students who are UK nationals and other students who meet the loan’s eligibility requirements (essentially home students).

Read the full consultation on Post-Doctoral Loans

There is also a current consultation out on the provision of undergraduate maintenance loans for part-time students. The details of this loan are:

  • the maximum amount of the specified loan would be 75% that of the equivalent full time maintenance loan, assessed on students’ household income.
  • the maximum length of eligibility is 16 years of study. The yearly loan available varies per person according to the intensity of their study (i.e. how many modules or hours they are doing in study).
  • the loan is a contribution towards living costs, and would available to people studying any Level 6 part-time qualification, including those studying on distance learning courses.
  • the loan would be available to UK nationals and other students who meet the loan’s eligibility requirements (essentially home students).
  • these loans are put in place by Government to attempt to support those entering part-time education and to widen access for BME students and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Read the full consultation on part-time maintenance loans for undergraduate students. 

If you have any comments or would like to know more about these consultations, please email: President@kclsu.org. The deadline for both consultations is 16 December.

 
Wed 16 Nov 2016

University Challenge Auditions!

Written by the KCLSU Student Officer Team

 

The time has come for another round of auditions for our University Challenge Team! The auditions will be held on 17th November at Guy's (you can find out more information in the Facebook event). 

We are hoping to make our audition process as open and inclusive as possible, so we look forward to seeing you on Thursday to answer some questions and have a few snacks. As a result of our aim to make our audition process and the team as inclusive and representative as possible we are using our positive action policy and will be aiming to have at least 50% of our University Challenge team consist of self-defining women, trans or non-binary students! This is an important step that reinforces our union values and ensures we are bringing an inclusive and representative team into a largely male dominated show. The final team will be selected on merit and also the need to ensure a wide range of subject knowledge is held between the team. Good luck! 

Hate crimes after the US Elections

Written by Mariya Hussain, Vice President for Education (Arts and Sciences)

With Brexit and the election of Donald Trump across the pond in the US, hate crimes appear to be increasing in number.

It is important to note that the likes of racism and Islamophobia have existed long before current events, but they are being compounded by recent societal and political shifts. On and around our campuses I have been hearing of an increasing number of Islamophobic incidents. Students, particularly Muslim women students, have faced abuse from students and members of the public as they go about their day.

I myself have faced attacks consistently, both verbal and physical, over the past few months, with the latest occurring as I waited at the bus stop outside Strand campus when two men stood behind me began to make jibes such directed towards me such as “Are we going to get blown up?”. Incidents like this really shake your confidence, although with time you can learn to look those being abusive in the eye and talk back to them, there is always the threat of an attack. It plays on your mind, and this threat along with the rhetoric espoused by politicians and the media, can push down on a person.

Further to this, it is always incredibly isolating and disappointing to see a lack of support from bystanders. So many stories are set against a backdrop of silent bystanders, of people who do not look, do not speak and do not support when someone is facing physical or verbal abuse, and I urge anyone who’s sees or hears someone facing Islamophobic abuse, or indeed abuse of any kind, to support the victim. On our campuses islamophobia is experienced in classrooms, hallways and the streets around our buildings; it, along with all forms of discriminatory abuse, will not be tolerated.

We must come together as a student body and as a college community to ensure that all students feel safe and that incidents of discrimination do not go unnoticed. This month is Islamophobia Awareness Month. There are a host of events happening up and down the country and KCLSU will be co-hosting an event on November 29th with the Intersectional Feminist Society and the KCL Islamic Society titled Campaign of Hate: Brexit, Islamophobia and Muslim Women. Keep an eye on our social media feeds for updates and the event page. If you need any support then you can always contact the KCLSU Advice service at kclsu.org/advice.

Mon 10 Oct 2016

World Mental Health Day - from our President

It’s 9am on a Friday. I come into work with a filter coffee and a Tupperware box with leftovers from the dinner I cooked from scratch the night before and go into a College Committee about the yearly intake of students. The senior academic staff say how good it is to have such an astute student who has an eye for detail on these Committees to hold them accountable. I smile and sip my coffee in between interrogating the data of student numbers I read in detail overnight, just before I had an anxiety attack and called the Samaritans at 3am for forty minutes because I couldn’t sleep. I come back to the office after the meeting and see I’ve received a thank you card from a student, and another student comments later in the day that they don’t know how I juggle so much, and that I seem to be doing so well.

I want to tell you that the perception of someone who seems high functioning is not always a reality. There have been a lot of times as a student when I’ve considered dropping out because of my mental health, or quitting my role as your Student Officer. Sometimes when all you want to do is lay in bed and not speak to anyone, paying bills, doing extra jobs, studying and going to the library can be impossible, as can getting out of bed to brush your teeth or go into the outside world. Daily interactions can be at best a challenge and at worst impossible. Your Union President has mental health problems.

Today is International Mental Health Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness around mental health issues around the world and combining efforts to support mental health. Perception and reality can be two different things when it comes to mental health. I’m writing this as an open letter to the student body because I’m hoping that by talking about some of my experiences, you can start to think about your own and help others in theirs.

I suffer from both depression and anxiety, as well as some physical disabilities which can make it a challenge to do day to day tasks. I have attended counselling, and taken medication. When I’ve been too anxious to speak to people, often I can think that my closest friends or family don’t care or don’t want to offer their support to me, and that partners will want to leave me. A few days ago I was messaging my current partner, and when there was a gap of twelve hours in the response my anxiety made me think that they were hurt or had left me. It turned out (as it always does) their phone ran out of charge. I don’t open up enough about my illness now, and didn’t at all in the past, because I thought I was being a burden.

One of the most important things highlighted in many mental health campaigns like Time to Talk, a campaign dedicated to people talking about mental health openly, is how difficult it can be to talk about mental health. Approaching someone about your mental health when already worried about what those closest to you are thinking, (will they think I’m a burden? Do they even care? Will they leave me if I talk about this?) is challenging.

I spent years not opening up about my illness until I had to talk. Earlier this year I visited a close friend of mine in Surrey after an extremely intense six months, and he told me that I looked grey in the face and that I needed help, and that people were worried about how I had been working to compensate for my personal problems. He said he would support me in whatever I did. That was the catalyst that I needed: someone closest to me recognising that I had a problem and offering their support to help me through. He saw through the high-functioning person who was sociable and didn’t want to talk about their problems, and he saw how ill and scared I was. So if you think a close friend of yours might need support, even if they are working dozens of hours a week, even if they don’t seem like they need it, or won’t ask you for it, reach out to them.

I was worried, after this conversation and starting counselling, that my health was actually nothing to worry about, that I was being a burden and I just needed to ‘get over myself’. One thing that has helped me through has been living with close friends who I know regardless of what happens will stay by me. Being able to tell them anything, whether it’s on a celebratory occasion where I’ve had anxiety problems and needed to go home early, or at 3am in the morning when I can’t sleep due to worrying about things, having that openness and trust has made me able to go forward with gaining support. Even if they can’t always understand, they always listen.

I’ve encountered so many wonderful students and staff in my four years at King’s, both as a Philosophy student and in my two years as a Student Officer at the Union, many of whom are friends for life. Because of my busy work life, the fact that I can cook and I’m always (reasonably!) presentable and responsive, people have been surprised that I have these issues. Many students will be able to juggle several extra-curricular activities as well as their studies, and work as well, but then go home late at night feeling profoundly lonely and down. Many others find it difficult to overcome daily tasks, to attend lectures, to keep to commitments or get out of bed, and I’ve definitely experienced both sides of this. If you do know someone who you think needs help but you haven’t offered it yet, I would ask you, today, message them or talk to them. Ask them if they need anything, or say that you’re always there for them. If you’re struggling with some things yourself, there is support out there for you.Rely on those close to you, they are there through better and worse, and book an appointment with a support service if you can. In the last year, almost 80% of students reported having mental health problems.[1] This message is a call to action around mental health and for us as a community to be proactive in supporting each other, and by talking about my own health, I hope you can do it yourself, or help someone in finding a way to talk about theirs.

If you would like to get in touch with Ben, your KCLSU President about this or any other matter, please contact him at president@kclsu.org 

If you need confidential help or advice, there are both internal and external resources available:  

Samaritans
The quickest way to contact the Samaritans and get a response is by phone on 116 123, this number is FREE to call. You can also contact them via email or on the web.

Mind
Call the Mind infoline on 0300 123 3393 or Text 86463. Alternatively, visit the website.

Resources at King's
Your personal tutor will be able to offer support in relation to your studies. If you don’t know who that is then please get in touch with your departmental office.

You can contact our counselling service on 020 7848 7017 or email them at counselling@kcl.ac.uk.

The Chaplains are also available to have an informal discussion with you if you wish to, regardless of faith. Their contact details are published on the website.

Please note also that the chapels and prayer rooms across King's are always available to people for private reflection and prayer.

Ben Hunt
KCLSU President 2016/17

Fri 30 Sep 2016

Why stand in the Big Autumn Elections?

If you want to get involved with the shaping of our union and creating change, then the autumn term is the one to do it in! There are elections for the Ethics Committee, Trustee Board, Student Reps, NUS conferences and more coming up - you can get involved with anything you like. Nominate yourself now - here are some reasons why you should...

Mariya (our VP for Education - Arts & Sciences):

I ran to be a Student Trustee in my second year and ended up being elected. I found myself with the opportunity to really set the strategy and vision of our Union and ensure that KCLSU members get the best from the Union. I was part of the decision to move our money to an ethical bank (a move that came as a result of student lobbying), I helped decide budgets for the years ahead, and I worked on the planning of the new KCLSU space at Bush House.

The work you do as a Student Trustee is varied, but it is really exciting to be able to directly shape our Union for students in such a direct way. Student Trustees are vital and if you're thinking about getting involved, then do!

Ben (our KCLSU President):

As a Sabbatical Trustee in the last year, I’ve worked on new areas which I never thought I would, such as overseeing the Bush House project from Trustee Board. This included working on what student spaces we could get, which included everything from working through space plans to looking at branding. It even included voicing what facilities students really want, such as a new cinema and activity rooms.

I also was able to take part in legal decisions and making some decisions regarding the right to protest on campus, and venue space too. The Trustee Board is an open place to set the direction of our Union, and students are needed on the ground to hold us to account to make sure we’re doing what’s right for you! If you want the opportunity to have a wide-ranging position at the top of KCLSU, to do what you think is right for our students, then please run for election. It’s a really rewarding experience!

Student Trustee is just one of over 50+ positions open. You can find a list of  all the positions for the Big Autumn Elections. Nominate yourself - you create real change on lots of different issues through any of them. And of course, if you want to ask any questions or find out more, then do get in touch!

Fri 19 Aug 2016

Welcome to King's and our Union

By Ben, Momin, Mariya, Jack & Mahamed, our Student Officer Team 

Welcome to everyone who has gained a place at King’s for September! We’re so excited to welcome you all into our Union community. As your elected Student Officers, we represent the views of students and campaign to improve the student experience at King’s, and fight for justice and student rights nationally and globally. If you’d like to know more about our campaigning priorities, please go here, or email us at studentofficers@kclsu.org.

We have a range of activities and events for you to get involved in at KCLSU. We’ve nearly 270 Activity and Sports Groups, doing anything from ultimate Frisbee to cheese and wine. We put on hundreds of bespoke events each year through our KCLSU Events programme, much of which you will experience throughout Welcome Month. Our Welcome Fair will take place on the 23 - 24 September at the Barbican, and will introduce you to our societies, activity and campaigning groups, as well as other external organisations for employment and volunteering opportunities. Welcome Fair is your doorway into the University community through the Students Union, with around 10,000 people attending last year’s event.

Also, check out our specific welcome pages for postgraduates, international students and distance learners. They've been created so that you have easy access to the most relevant information and events for you.  

We can’t wait to welcome you to our community and London, with all of its exciting opportunities. We are proud to empower our students to have the best experience possible whilst on their University journey, to give them a platform to grow and to be the representative body of 27,000 King’s students.

Thu 28 Jul 2016

King's Windows Change

By Ben Hunt, our current VP for Education Arts & Sciences, and KCLSU President 2016/17 

Today, five of the windows on the front of Strand have been changed to digital screens with rolling content.

KCLSU has received comments from students in the past about the lack of diversity among the individuals pictured on King’s windows, and whether this is the right way to represent all that the King’s community is and stands for.  When I was LGBT+ Officer, there was an ongoing campaign to have Lord Carey removed from the Strand windows, because of views he expressed on equal marriage and other things concerning the LGBT+ community. In the last year, because of this campaign, the university has worked with KCLSU to find an alternative approach to showcasing students and staff of King’s - both past and present - and to listen to the student concern over the campaign. The university is keen to modernise the way it communicates itself to the world and KCLSU wished to resolve the campaign, and thus the digital windows project was born. Five of the windows on the front of Strand are now digitised with new rotating content, and the university plans to extend a digital presence to each campus.

The new digital screens will showcase a wide variety of things that make up all the King’s community is and does, including student activity, research, fundraising activities and alumni successes.  We need to be an institution which doesn’t only represent the achievements of the past, but includes contributions from our students who are role-models today. Being a community isn’t just about people with huge global achievements, it’s also about the successes that religious societies and others have every year in raising money for charity. It’s about the role of liberation groups in fighting for changes, both locally and nationally. It’s about volunteering, activities and all the additional things students do that constitute us as a Union, and in Service of Society. That's what we'll seek to emphasise, as well as student content that comes forward from you in the future as this programme continues.

If you have any questions please email me.

Mon 25 Jul 2016

Our statement on Health Bursaries

By Sophia Koumi and Jack Haywood, your current and incoming VP for Education (Health)

On Thursday 21st July, the Government confirmed that NHS bursaries for nursing, midwifery and allied health professional courses will be replaced with loans and fees for new students from September 2017. We are extremely disappointed that the Government has recklessly decided to go ahead with the changes, even after a consultation period.

Nursing, midwifery and allied health professional students are a fundamental part of the NHS healthcare team. Nurses are placed on a rota from day one of their placements and are expected to work alongside paid members of staff. From September 2017 they will be paying to work. The vast majority will also not earn anywhere near enough in their careers to pay off the hefty debts (which will be over £50,000).

We are committed to doing whatever we possibly can to fight these changes, and will be taking direction from the Bursary or Bust campaign to plan our next steps. Over the coming weeks we will also be working with KCL to clarify their position on the changes, and make a case for them to provide extra support financial and otherwise to students who will be affected.

You can find out more about the Bursary or Bust campaign on their Facebook page, and we will provide an update once we have more information.

In the meantime if you have any questions or concerns, please email vpeh@kclsu.org to get in touch with us. 

Thu 02 Jun 2016

King's for Refugees - Lebanon trip

I was lucky enough to spend three days in Beirut talking to students and non-governmental organisations who are working with students from Syria to improve their chances of accessing higher education as refugees.

Students and staff at King’s have been incredibly proactive in showing solidarity with refugees across the world. They have been providing free dental care and sending sanitary products to Calais, students have created an app that helps refugees find accommodation in Paris. They have been working with refugee and asylum seeking students in the UK to encourage them to become politically engaged too.

Members of the University are keen to create an institutional response to educational support for refugees. One that extends beyond scholarships and looks at how we can create meaningful partnerships with organisations on the ground supporting young people trying to access many different levels of education, from primary to higher education.

Lebanon was chosen as there is a significant proportion of refugees that have fled there, and it was an area that we knew NGOs were working in with regards to education support. This isn’t to say that we want to restrict ourselves to the refugee populations in Lebanon but it is a start to investigate how the University can be useful. The Sanctuary Scholarships introduced by the university are open to all people from refugee and asylum seeking backgrounds.

According to Amnesty International, Lebanon hosts around 1.1 million refugees from Syria, this doesn’t include the Palestinian and Sudanese refugees in the country. We focused on the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon which the UNHCR estimates has around 365,555 refugees (31 March 2016).

We met with United Lebanon Youth, the Kayany Foundation, the Lebanese Association for Scientific Research, the British Council, UNICEF, the British Ambassador to Lebanon, the American University of Beirut, and UNHCR.

A major difficulty for Syrian refugees is that the Syrian curriculum is taught in Arabic whereas in Lebanon it is taught in English. This means that when young people arrive in Lebanon there is a big language barrier in schools. Syrian families are also wary about sending their children to public school for fear of discrimination which includes physical and verbal abuse from both staff and students. This shows that the refugee crisis is complex and is more than just a humanitarian endeavour. It was born out of real political turmoil and violent conflict, and unfortunately years of tension between Lebanon and Syria is being taken out on the most vulnerable of Syrian people seeking refuge.

Many different avenues of working together with these organisations were explored. We found commonalities with the American University of Beirut in terms of working together on research and training teachers to teach in the refugee camps in the Beqaa Valley. Our meetings with the Kayany Foundation, United Lebanon Youth, UNICEF, and UNHCR also emphasised the need to focus not just on higher education but also primary and secondary education.

We discussed mentoring opportunities between King’s staff/students and students in Lebanon, we also explored ways of working with other global institutions to recognise the qualifications these students are getting from makeshift schools in refugee camps to improve their chances of accessing higher education.

I’ll be updating as the project develops but if you would like to get more hands on and involved with the core group of students who are helping around this issue please drop me an email at Nadine.almanasfi@kclsu.org

Nadine Almanasfi, KCLSU President

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