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thevoice

................................................................................................................... KINGSTON UNIVERSITY STUDENTS’ UNION ISSUE No.8 APRIL 2013 ...................................................................................................................

KU SYRIAN STUDENTS UNDER THREAT By Liz Turner

Syrian students studying at Kingston have been left with bleak prospects for finishing their course as they await a crucial decision over their university fees. Across the UK, Syrian students’ sponsorship and loans are being rejected due to the instability of the Syrian government or if they are known to be involved in anti-government activity. With no means to pay their fees, many Syrian students are under threat of being expelled from their University and deported back to Syria, where their lives could be in danger. The Department for Education (DfE) and Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) have urged all Universities to support Syrian students by waiving fees and providing them with access to hardship funds. Some Universities, including Brunel, Edinburgh, Essex, Heriot-Watt, Manchester, Marjon (St Mark and St John), Newcastle and Warwick, have agreed to this, while Kingston has yet to waive or defer the fees.

A PhD student from Syria, who did not wish to be named, said that it was crucial to him that his fees be waived, especially at this time of study. He believes that if this does not happen he will be suspended from University and unable to resume study. He would then lose his student visa and be deported. He said: “It will be difficult to go back in this situation. It is not safe to walk in the streets with the possibility of being killed. We hope it will end soon, so we can build our country again.” One Syrian student studying business said: “This debt has brought a great burden to my life. I am finding it hard to concentrate on my studies with the constant pressure of the debt as well as thoughts of the current turmoil in my country. I wish I could repay but how can I if I barely have money to eat? I have no income and no support from my family as they have very

little money themselves. “It is absolutely crucial to me that the fees are waived as I am struggling with the basics such as rent and food. If they were waived, it would release a mountain of stress and allow me to think positively. “I want a chance to succeed, a chance to better my life and hope to get a good classified degree along with a good job. If the fees do not get waived, I feel as if I have no guarantee how my life will turn out. I just need a chance.“ Even those students who are self-funded are in this same situation of financial destitution, as vital transactions have been blocked by the European Union to prevent the funding of military groups. Kingston University Students’ Union (KUSU) are currently campaigning for the University to adhere to the recommendations of support by the UK Government and to help students as they require. So far Syrian students studying at Kingston

have been given access to the Hardship Fund through the Student Life Centre and longer term support is being explored. Vice President Learning & Teaching of KUSU, Rita Serghis, has been holding conversations with the University on providing this extra aid. Rita said: “While 650 Syrian students study in the UK at various institutions, at Kingston University we have a very small number of Syrian students - no more than ten. “As the crisis in their home country worsens, it is having a devastating impact on their studies and life here in the UK. “It’s very important that we help them. They are trapped in a system that does not cater for disaster situations.“ Rita has been working closely with five Syrian students; helping them to find information on claiming asylum, and ways to help their relations in Syria find refuge. If you would like to show your support

in campaigning KU to waive the fees of Syrian students and to provide them with long-term support until the end of their course, please sign the petition: http://www.ipetitions.com/ petition/support-syrian-students/ If you know any KU Syrian national student, please direct them to KUSU and to Rita Serghis, Vice President Learning and Teaching: vplearningandteaching@kingston.ac.uk

or 0208 417 2857 For more information visit the Syrian Students’ UK Fees Campaign: http://ssufc.co.uk/ Above: Vice President Learning & Teaching of KUSU, Rita Serghis, is backing the Syrian Students’ UK Fees Campaign

................................................................................................................... INSIDE: EMERGENCY STUDENTS’ MEETING STUDENT VOLUNTEER WEEK MAY LISTINGS

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union news

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EMERGENCY STUDENTS’ MEETING By Chris Jutting Kingston University Students’ Union (KUSU) held an emergency meeting last week with Kingston students to discuss new proposals that would affect the roles of principal lecturers at the University. The meeting had been called as a response to a petition signed by over 265 students. The proposals themselves suggest a change in job titles for current principal lecturers, which could result in a pay cut of up to £9,000 for those currently in principal lecturer roles. However, some have hailed the proposals as a way of promoting a better quality of teaching. Presenting the two opposing sides of the debate were KU Vice Chancellor Julius Weinberg, speaking for the new proposals, and branch chairman of the University and College Union (UCU), Andrew Higginbottom, who was speaking against. Throughout the evening, Mr Weinberg insisted that the proposals were “not about dismissal”. However, his claims are disputed by the UCU who say that offering staff

voluntary redundancy as an alternative to the proposals could result in as many as 65 staff leaving their posts, with more to follow. Mr Higginbottom took to the stage, criticising Kingston’s management for what he called an “attack” on lecturers. He said: “I am asking for your solidarity on behalf of the lecturing staff in this institution against a management attack on our conditions of work. We are not against change. We are in favour of a promotion and progression policy, but we are opposed to elements of the current proposal that are quite frankly there to strengthen the hand of management against the academic workforce.” After some initial quarrels between the two speakers, with each disputing the other’s facts, the meeting settled into diplomacy, with students posing relevant questions to each of the speakers and votes being taken on motions that would affect the way the students’ union handled the proposals. Two motions were presented for students to vote on. The first, presented by student

and member of the Kingston Education Activist Network, John Merrick, asked KUSU to provide support to UCU and lecturers affected by the proposals. The second, presented by student Chris Dingle, spoke in favour of an amended set of proposals and asked that the Students’ Union do the same, in order to ‘support excellence in teaching’. Both motions passed with a clear majority. The first motion passed with no amendments; the second passed with two amendments. However, despite a close turnout of 94 students, the meeting failed to make quorum (100 students). As a result, the outomes of the vote were to be taken as ‘indicative’ rather than binding the Students’ Union into a particular course of action. The issue will now be passed to the executive committee of KUSU who will decide how to proceed with the motions.

Above: Vice Chancellor Julius Weinberg giving his speech

MUST BE ................................................................................... A SIGN... Decisions of the executive committee will be published on www.kusu.co.uk.

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Students offered FREE British Sign Language COURSES!

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DAY IN THE LIFE OF A COURSE REP By Elizabeth Stromme The title ‘course rep’ is thrown around a lot nowadays. But what is a course rep and what do we do? In theory we’re here to represent our fellow students and create a link between the university’s staff and students. In reality, we attempt to do this and are often shut down faster than a formula 1 racecar. For that reason, last month the Students’ Union therefore decided to hold a ‘Course Rep Congress’ to ask us what needed to change and how to change it, in order for us be better, more effective course reps. I have to say, getting up at the crack of dawn for a congress on a Saturday and have to sit there for five hours sounded like a rather poor joke, but as it turned out, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. The day began with us being introduced to members of our Students’ Union and we also had the opportunity to drill our Dean of Students, Bruce Armstrong, as well as the Pro Vice Chancellor, Lesley-Jane Eales-Reynolds, about our influence both as students and course reps at the university. Not only did we learn how to present our cases quickly at the congress, we also had workshops on a variety of issues facing

Above: Course reps attend a variety of workshops at the Course Rep Congress students. These ranged from discussions about communication skills, to talks about the changes that we want to see on our campuses. Getting the chance to discuss the course rep system in a laidback atmosphere with Denza, our new Students’ Union President, was brilliant. At last I felt like my opinions

had really been heard. 53 course reps attended the conference, and I dare say that we all found it to be a Saturday well spent. Being a course rep went from feeling like a thankless job to being what it is supposed to be: educational, fun and something worth being a part of.

Kingston University Students’ Union (KUSU) is to offer free British Sign Language (BSL) courses to students, due to popular demand. Vice President Student Life Lucy Williams initially organised two free BSL taster sessions for students. Owing to the popularity of the courses and enthusiasm of the student body, Lucy successfully applied for funding for a full BSL course for students from two grant pots within the university – the Opportunities Fund and the Disability Stewardship Fund. Lucy said: “I’m ecstatic we got the funding to go ahead with the courses! I wanted to put this course on for so many reasons. I think it’s a great opportunity to learn another language –if I was queen of the world, BSL would be taught from primary school! “From an extra-curricular and employability point of view, being able to tell a potential employer that you speak another language, especially one that is a relatively rare language to know, will really make you stand out. “I think it’s also important from an inclusion level – there are students here on campus, and people out in the real world, whose first language will be BSL. It would be nice to give more people the skill to be able to communicate confidently with people they once may not have been able to. “The course will be open to everyone, although I think it would be especially useful for people studying teaching, social work or nursing, or anything to do with languages.” Details of the full BSL course will be published on www.kusu.co.uk


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campaigns

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STUDENTS REDESIGN COUNCIL’S CAMPAIGN By Jemma Woods Kingston students have redesigned Kingston Council’s anti-rape campaign. Members of the Kingston feminist society believed that some of the original rape awareness posters adopted by Kingston Council carried aspects of victim blaming. One of the posters (below) carries the words, ‘Who’s buying you a drink?’

Above: One of the original posters, used by the council.

The Kingston feminist society believe that their own advocacy campaign can help combat ‘lad culture’ and create a more ethical media response to the alarming rape figures in Kingston. Megan Smith, KUSU Women’s Officer and President of the feminist society, said: “Last year’s anti-rape campaigns in Kingston had elements of victim-blaming and so our campaign is a direct response to that.”

The new campaign takes the perspective of the perpetrator, providing an inside view of the crime. It aims to generate awareness of what constitutes sexual violence and sexual harassment, in particular targeting ‘lad culture’. The posters were designed by Edward Hyatt, Vice President of the Feminist Society and current Postgraduate Officer. Kingston Council have agreed to adopt the new posters as soon as this autumn. Megan said: “Many people don’t actually know what rape and sexual assault constitutes. For example, harassment is often misconstrued as flirting or ‘banter’. We want to stress that being drunk, or being pressured into saying yes, does not constitute consent and the perpetrators need to know this and the damage that it does.” Currently, Sean Kelly (President of KUSU), Edward and Megan are working on the campaign’s website, thatwasrape.org, which will have information on what victim blaming, rape apology and ‘lad culture’ is as well as what rape, sexual violence and sexual harassment actually constitute. The team are keen for Kingston University to come on board and have set up a meeting with the Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Unit at KU, Nona McDuff. Megan said: “We hope that the campaign will open a wider dialogue of these issues at Kingston University and the whole of the Kingston area. We are confident it will have a positive effect on rape statistics and we also hope that if it’s successful it can be shipped out to the rest of the UK and best of all become a viral phenomenon.”

Above and right: Examples of the new posters, designed by students.

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STUDENT VOLUNTEERING WEEK

For more information head on up to the KUSU offices or go to http://www.kusu.co.uk/ volunteering

By Sara Ann Hope Imagine a week spent knitting hats, eating brie, playing bingo, and finally getting down to some hardcore gardening. It might sound slightly different from your average week spent in the library and the pub. I’m talking, of course, about Student Volunteering Week (SVW) 2013, which took place from February 11th to 16th. SVW is a national initiative organised and run by the National Union of Students and Student Hubs, and it is designed to showcase the brilliant work of current student volunteers and also to encourage new students to get involved. Kingston’s SVW activities included making decorations for a French party at the Bradbury Centre (a “youth club for elderly people”) then helping out on the day by serving a French lunch, playing French bingo and hosting a quiz about all things French (naturellement!). It was fantastic fun – even though my French and bingo skills

were put to shame. Plus there was cheese, it’s always a good day when there is cheese. Others helped with an Orchard Conservation event at Dorich House, getting to grips with pruning and mulching, and looking extremely stylish in their hard hats and safety glasses. Those less willing to brave the chill decamped to the KUSU offices and knitted hats for premature babies, or tried to at least. In my experience it sometimes turns out more hole than hat, but seasoned knitters were on hand to offer advice and mend dropped stitches. 41 students volunteered during the week while ten brand new students registered for future opportunities with KUSU volunteering. If you haven’t tried it yet, it’s not too late to get involved – there is another volunteers’ week coming up in June.

.................................................................................................................... Above: Volunteers at the Bradbury centre serve a French lunch


................................................................................................................... Students can hire the KUSU bars for FREE

entertainment

CONTACT: Hannafords: tom.bennett@kingston.ac.uk Space: l.marsh@kingston.ac.uk Knights Park: p.daniels@kingston.ac.uk

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LISTINGS - APRIL/MAY 2013

One-Off Volunteering:

Gardening at Scope! SATURDAY

SUNDAY

MONDAY

TUESDAY

WEDNESDAY

THURSDAY

FRIDAY

10am – 5:30pm Lingfield Avenue, Kingston

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FREE British Sign Language taster session 2pm-3pm Knights Park Tower

Hat-knitting for Babies 1:30pm-2:30pm Kingston University Students’ Union

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End of Year Volunteering Social: Balsam Bashing and Outdoor Picnic 2pm – 5pm Knights Park Campus

Big Fat Quiz of the Week 8pm Hannafords Bar

Annual Sports Awards 6pm Epsom Downs Racecourse

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Pool Competition 9pm Hannafords Bar

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Pool Competition 9pm Hannafords Bar

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Pool Competition 9pm Hannafords Bar

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Annual Volunteer Awards Ceremony 5:30pm-8:15pm Dorich House

Green Peace Pub Quiz 7.30-9pm Knights Park Bar

One-Off Volunteering: Momentum at St George’s Hospital – Tooting 10-4pm St George’s Hospital, Tooting

Student and Support Awards & Student-Led Learning and Teaching Awards 7pm Holiday Inn, Kingston

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Big Fat Quiz of the Week 8pm Hannafords Bar

................................................................................................................... STUDENT BITES BACK AGAINST LOAN SHARKS By Edward Shaw A crackdown on loan sharks has been given extra bite with a new poster designed by a Kingston University student. Artwork by Garfield Kar C Li, a Fashion Masters student, is now on show around Kingston town centre warning people with debt problems not to turn to illegal money lenders. Kingston Council’s Trading Standards team commissioned Kingston University Students’ Union (KUSU) to hold a competition to find an eye-catching design that would help draw public attention to the dangers of loan sharks.

Councillor Simon James, lead member with responsibility for Trading Standards, said: “Garfield’s striking poster helps to highlight our message that loan sharks can have a devastating impact on families.”

To report loan shark activity call 0300 555 2222 to speak to experts in confidence. If you’re having money problems and don’t know where to turn, you can get help and support from your students’ union by visiting www.kusu.co.uk/kusu-support

Garfield said:

“This is such a good cause to support. I felt that if I could bring attention or awareness to anyone about the information and help available, it would definitely be worth the effort. “When I was little I accidently saw a loan shark movie on TV while changing channels, I still have vivid imagery of that horrific scene in my head. My parents also educated me on why I should avoid loan sharks so I feel very strongly about it. “I am very happy that I’ve won! I was also a little surprised because I imagined there would be so many entries that it might be difficult to be selected, but I was told that my design stood out immediately and I couldn’t stop smiling about that for a while, it was incredible.” Garfield won £100 of Waterstones vouchers for his winning design and is now considering investing in some design and illustration books to inspire future designs.

Above: Garfield and Cllr Simon James at one of the poster sites on Clarence Street in the town centre

Vice President Student Life of KUSU, Lucy Williams, said: “As a students’ union, we are always on the look-out for new ways to bring students and the local community together, as well as boost skills and career prospects.” No matter how much you are struggling, loan sharks are not the answer to your financial troubles. If you have been affected by illegal money lending, you should get in touch with the Illegal Money Lending Team.

................................................................................................................... Above: Garfield Kar C Li

Above: The winning poster

THE OPINIONS, BELIEFS AND VIEWPOINTS EXPRESSED BY CONSTRIBUTORS DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THOSE OF THE STUDENTS’ UNION


The Voice Issue 8