The Reading Rep Issue 28

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FIFI’S NEW FOCUS ON FEEDBACK Your RUSU Education Officer campaigns for change, p6 Student Spotlight Stories

Connecting Cultures: Celebrating our differences across campus



In this Issue… November/December 2019


StudentLife Life Student 04

Student Spotlight Stories With the holiday season upon us, we speak to student Sam Drysdale who shares what the festive period means to them and also introduce you to the new Muslim Chaplain Javed Kachhalia.



Disabled Students Part-time Officer Charlotte has made great changes since being elected and is our very deserving Rep of the Month!

Fifi’s feedback Education Officer Fifi has launched her new campaign to improve assessment feedback for all students this year. Find out how it will benefit you and how to get involved.

Reps have already achieved lots in their first term, find out what they’ve been up to as they have their say.

08 Regulars


This issue we share our favourite facts about mental health, Christmas and also give a nod to Disability History Month.

Reflecting on Kindness Now the RUSU Bake Off has finished, we’ve started a new Random Acts of Kindness scheme as a pick-meup for staff. And the kindness is spreading… Get inspired this gift-giving season.


Psychology School Rep, DJ, tells us all about her new Breaking It Down lecture series on our back page quiz…her answers are not to be missed!


Your Say Check out what other reps are saying about their experiences and share your stories with us by getting in touch… “I am particularly proud of being part of our departmental awards for staff that we wish to recognize. As a course rep, we created the certificates ourselves, and gathered votes from students to honour staff who have gone above and beyond. We've been able to get funding from our academic society which we used to buy frames and small gifts for those that win. It's really nice to be able to show our staff how great of a job we think they do - especially as a small course as we are unlikely to be able to garner enough votes for RUSU awards. Generally representing the voices of approximately 100 students during my time here has been brilliant. It's easy enough to convey your own point of view, but to accurately represent so many voices and honour their ideas, is something that I would definitely say is desirable for future employment.” Anonymous response from the 2019 Annual Impact Survey

Write in and pick up a prize next month…

We love this star letter but also want to encourage you to nominate a member of staff in your department for a RUSU Excellence Award here –

“I’ve really liked talking to different students in different years and listening to their feedback, especially international students. Being able to witness the changes throughout the year has definitely increased the job satisfaction and the whole experience will imperceptibly impact me in the future.”

“Being a School Rep helped me to feel more selfconfident. I worked with lots of wonderful people that I would never have known if I was not a School Rep.”


It’s Disability History Month! DHM takes place from 22nd Nov. to 22nd Dec. and this year focuses on disabled leaders throughout history and how their movements have led to disability becoming a human rights issue rather than a personal burden. Disabled Part-time Officer Charlotte has a lot planned, check out social media and announcements page for more info!

the view RUSU RATES… I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here, Series 19, ITV

Our Marketing Assistant, Sian, snapped this great shot this month!

We don’t know about you but we are very excited to see how Caitlyn Jenner fares in the jungle! Despite being on our screens for 19 years, there is always something fascinating about watching celebrities eating fish eyes as the nights draw in and the countdown to Christmas begins.

Follow us @rusuphotos

It’s Not OK To Feel Blue And Other Lies, Scarlett Curtis £14.99, Penguin

Positive affirmation of the issue:

Never give up on what you really want to do. The person with big dreams is more powerful than one with all the facts. -Albert Einstein


Did you know?


Mince pies are eaten in the UK each year with Brits eating 27 on average! It is technically illegal, however to eat them on Christmas Day due to a law Oliver Cromwell put in place that has never been rescinded! Anyhow, we can’t wait to see them in shops and on café menus this month!

A collection of short stories and essays from activists, writers and more, collated to help fight the stigma surrounding mental health in our current society. Definitely, a must read.

Sustainable gift giving! Besides choosing eco-friendly presents that will last, maybe suggest doing a Secret Santa amongst your friends to save money and the environment! When sending cards, think about calling someone instead or get creative and make your own with recycled cardboard. Plus, you can cut up any cards you get and use them as gift tags next year!

Convincing yourself that you slept well the night before can boost your cognitive performance for the day ahead. Studies have shown that you perform better in tests if you believe you’ve had a better nights sleep!

Fifi’s new focus on feedback Is your feedback not detailed enough? Would you prefer face to face feedback? Does waiting for comments take longer than Brexit? After hearing feedback horror stories as an undergraduate, RUSU Education Officer Fifi Bangham is now taking a stand and working to ensure that feedback becomes clear, concise and timely. Read on to find out how you can get involved…

Why did you want to do a feedback campaign? Fifi: To improve the quality and consistency of feedback across the uni so that students can use their feedback to make effective progression in their work. Looking at the NSS (National Student Survey) results it is clear that feedback for many students is not of a high enough quality. Having collected anecdotal evidence from students I have found that these findings support the data on feedback from the NSS, where feedback across the university is significantly below the national average. When I was running for Education Officer, this was an important point on my manifesto as I feel it’s a fundamental issue that needs to be resolved across the university, to improve the student experience and allow student the opportunity to progress with their work. 6

What will your campaign involve? It’s still a work in progress but our current plan is to work with CQSD (Centre of Quality Support and Development) at the University to update the feedback policy, making them relevant to electronic marking and up to date in the expectations. There will also be feedback checklists created to help markers ensure that feedback is of a high quality, and posters for students on how to make the most of their feedback. We are looking to recruit feedback champions from across the university to help us make changes.

Do any of these comments sound familiar? Send Fifi your feedback to make these issues a thing of the past!

I hope that by updating the feedback policy, students will receive timely feedback that is more detailed and can be used to influence future assessments. There are also so many different types of assessment that feedback should be clear and specific whilst still be consistent across all departments.

From inconsistency in grading to a lack of written comments, there is a need to make improvements.”

How can students help? It’s so important for students to get involved as it shows University staff that it is something students are passionate about and eager to change. Personally, I would be really keen for students to get involved and would love to hear experiences, either good or bad, that students have had of feedback. The more feedback we can gather on feedback, the quicker we will be able to create change! Get in contact with me by emailing


Connecting Cultures: Celebrating Our Differences Student Spotlight Stories: INTERVIEWS BY KYLE SMITH

UK Interfaith Week marks a time for recognising the diverse range of cultures and faiths expressed in the UK, whilst celebrating the traits we all share regardless of our religious beliefs. We caught up with former student Sam Drysdale and new Muslim chaplain Javed Kachhalia, to discuss the importance of interfaith and how their respective beliefs fit in together…

For Sam Drysdale, faith is about hope, and about bringing people together. Sam graduated from the University of Reading in 2016, before going on to study an MA in Theology at Durham University. Now back on campus as an assistant within the chaplaincy centre, Sam works with staff and students from an array of backgrounds as an Interfaith Intern. Identifying key similarities between different faith beliefs allows Sam to bring students from different cultures together. As a Christian, Sam’s life was turned around when he discovered his faith. Feeling loved by God gave him warmth and hope that was crucial to Sam’s mental health and wellbeing, and he reflects that things may have been very different for him without this bright light in his life. “I wasn’t raised Christian – in fact it wasn’t until I started studying Religious Education in secondary school that I began to believe the universe had been designed.”

“We don’t need to run the world on fear and mutually assured destruction – we can do it with candlelit vigils and civil society.”

I wasn’t raised Christian – in fact it wasn’t until I started studying Religious Education in secondary school that I began to believe the universe had been designed.” Sam

A few years later I started regularly going to church. “In that time, my mental health plummeted, and I felt very lonely and disconnected from the world. Going to church, and finding people and a God who loved me, was the best thing that could have happened to me.” Sam believes religion has the power to connect and calm people, and this is crucial in a modern-day world ravaged8by hate and violence.


“Faith gives us hope, and religion has the ability to spread peace and goodwill. Throughout history, it has helped to end conflict and bring people together. “We don’t need to run the world on fear and mutually assured destruction – we can do it with candlelit vigils and civil society.” During Sam’s time at university, he got stuck in to a number of societies, and volunteered his time on the weekends to teach Sunday school at Greyfriars Church in Reading. Like many people, university taught Sam about much more than just academia; engaging with the faith community allowed him to develop his theology further and explore his beliefs, with the chaplaincy providing a space for him to ask questions about his religion. “As a student, I used the chaplaincy centre almost every day – it was always a safe space where you could speak about your faith without being judged. “It was also very helpful theologically; it gave me the opportunity to question parts of my beliefs and learn more about Christianity. It introduced me to a whole other world of things, and I learned of stuff I’d never imagined before going in to the chaplaincy.” One of the great things about the chaplaincy centre is the potential it has to connect religions and cultures, and this is especially powerful in Interfaith Week. Sam has been getting to know different faith groups and societies since starting his role in September. “Overall, there is a really positive attitude towards interfaith. The community on campus is very hospitable and keen to get involved with interfaith events.”

Sam Drysdale, former University of Reading student is a new face at the Chaplaincy centre

Sam isn’t the only new face in the chaplaincy centre – Javed Kachhalia is the centre’s new Muslim Chaplain, after starting his role in September as well. Javed is no stranger to working on interfaith initiatives after a previous role at Swansea University, and is familiar with campus after a period in a similar role as a volunteer. As Muslim chaplain, Javed ensures that both staff and students on campus have somewhere to go for pastoral support and care. With his position relatively new, the response has been very positive.

Interfaith events are essential to spread harmony on campus.” - Javed

“Having worked in previous university setups, I found beginning this new role at Reading a completely different challenge. As the university’s first Muslim chaplain, I feel a great deal of responsibility and expectation on my shoulders. “Luckily, the entire campus community, both Muslim and non-Muslim, has shown a great deal of respect towards my position and made me feel very welcome.” Working in the chaplaincy, Javed’s faith makes up a huge part of his day-to-day working life. Javed’s religion provides him with a prominent sense of responsibility and encourages him to follow his God’s example. 9


“To me, following Islam and being a servant of Allah means he will reward me in this world and in later life. In my daily life, my religion has never been an obstacle - I am a human first, and then I am a Muslim. “As a human I enjoy my life; I entertain myself and socialise within the boundaries set by my religion. I know there is a best outcome for me and this has been set up by my God.” Like Sam, Javed believes in the importance of interfaith events to promote peace on campus. A diverse range of faiths pass through the doors of the chaplaincy, and Javed is working hard to ensure each of these faiths have a place to express themselves.

Javed Kachhalia is the Chaplain centre’s new Muslim Chaplain

Festive Fun with the Chaplaincy  For this year’s festive period, the chaplaincy will be running its annual Christmas Carol Service, which is taking place at 6pm on the 2nd of December in The Great Hall on London Road campus. Visit for more information!  Also, Javed’s Friday sermons will explore perspectives on Jesus. As a Muslim, Javed is incorporating elements of other religions in to his work, in order to promote the benefits of interfaith over the festive period. To contact the chaplaincy contact:

In my daily life, my religion has never been an obstacle - I am a human first, and then I am a Muslim.” - Javed 10

It’s Cool To Be Kind! Exploring the effects of kindness: how making others happy creates joy within ourselves

“Practising kindheartedness should be our default.” – Sarah Alexander At RUSU this month your President Molli Cleaver, decided we should embark on a Random Acts of Kindness initiative to help boost staff morale as well as a nod to the festive gift-giving season. So far the cheerful effects of such an idea have been felt across the organisation. Staff have received uplifting post-it notes dotted around their screens when they return from lunch breaks and edible goodies on their desks that have put smiles on faces and made people’s days. Thinking there might be more to this scheme than first meets the eye, we decided to investigate the power of kindness a little more closely…


Get off to a good start Do you jump out of bed in the mornings excited about the endless possibilities and wonderment each day might bring or are you prone to snoozing your alarm clock and hiding back under the covers? You’d be forgiven if the latter sounds like you and particularly during these cold winter months, most of us would much rather dash back to bed than embrace the day with kindness! But, why not try letting someone out ahead of you on your commute to work or holding a door open for a stranger in the morning and see how having a positive morning helps you get off to a good start each day. Being kind before midday means the karma owes you one in the afternoon!


Practice patience As with many things in life, the more we do it, the better we get (generally). And patience is a tough practice to crack when we live in such a fast-paced world nowadays! But the more you mindfully decide to not jump to conclusions, listen to all points of view and take stock rather than charging in, the more time you’ll find you have to reflect and pause. These moments are golden and often help you see the bigger picture. And when we see the bigger picture we often gain a clearer perspective and make better decisions too.




Random acts of kindness This concept has really proven to be a magical force for good and not just at RUSU. There have been happiness movements and paying it forward schemes started around the world that have proven karma is listening and when you do perform a random act of kindness (albeit not expecting anything back in return from the person you bestow the kindness upon), then what normally happens, is, when you are least expecting it, or are most in need of it, something fabulous will land in your lap or arrive at your front door. It’s that simple.

DID YOU KNOW? 20 SECOND HUG EFFECT Hugging someone you love for 20 seconds a day is the key to alleviating stress and beating burnout, according to a new book. American identical twins Emily and Amelia Nagoski, co-authors of Burnout: The Secret to Solving the Stress Cycle, say hugging unlocks your ‘stress cycle. Apparently a lingering embrace releases the ‘love’ hormone oxytocin, which can lower your blood pressure, slow your heart rate and improve your mood.


End your day with thanks At the end of each day, try and give thanks for all the good things that occurred. Just before you drop off, imagine what wonderful and positive happenings might occur the following day to make it the next best day. And, if you’re into it, meditating for 10 or so minutes soon before bed, can help you unwind and ensure a peaceful night’s sleep. While it might seem like you are wasting valuable time, this will increase your vitality and reduce your stress significantly (just picture the monks!).


Sarah Alexander is the author of the book Spiritual Intelligence in Leadership and she is also a mindfulness coach and professional speaker. She is running a workshop for students on 5th December in the RUSU boardroom called Under Pressure? How to Stay Cool Calm and Collected. Sign up to her workshop here! Q: How do you, as a coach, keep yourself as happy as you can be? SARAH SAYS: “I get a huge amount of pleasure and fulfilment from the work I do. Seeing people grow, develop is hugely rewarding. I am also mindful that it is important to gain happiness from other areas of my life too. I know that I can feel very happy as a result of time with friends, being outside walking or running in beautiful places. Also, my meditation practice can bring me a sense of inner quiet that is a good antidote to the busyness of everyday life.”

Q: What do you see as a measure of happiness? SARAH SAYS: “I believe the measure of happiness is a feeling of contentment. It is unrealistic to expect to feel cheerful all the time. Often our happiness is dependent on our circumstances. Yet, if we can feel content, even when some things are not as we want them to be, we are doing very well. Being able to accept that life is full of ups and downs, good times and less good times, allows us to maintain a mental equilibrium and stability that can lead to a feeling of contented calm.”

Q: Can practicing kindness make people happier? SARAH SAYS: “Many religions and spiritual philosophies teach the Golden Rule: that we should treat others in the way that we want to be treated. If we fully embrace this principle (and it is not easy to do consistently) then practising kindheartedness should be our default. Science proves that when we act kindly, receive kindness from others or even just witness acts of benevolence, it releases a neurotransmitter in our brains (serotonin) that regulates our mood and enables us to feel happier. The best way to prove this is to test this theory for ourselves for a week and see if we feel more joyful!”

Celebrating Disabled History Month with Rep of the Month, Charlotte After her own struggles during her first years at University, Charlotte Hyde ran to be RUSU’s Disabled Students Part-time Officer to ensure that she could improve the university experience for other disabled students on campus. She is our deserving Rep of the Month after making huge improvements across the university.

This role has been really positive for me so far and has given me so many opportunities that I would never have had before. It has allowed me to consider ideas that I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise and most importantly has allowed me to leave a legacy that justifies all the frustrations I have been through as it will continually be creating positive change for others in my position.

“ Charlotte says: I was keen to run for Disabled Students Part-time Officer as I spent the first two years of my degree feeling completely alone and there was very little peer support which made it even harder. Because of this, one of my main manifesto points was to be a point of contact for disabled students regardless of the disability and fight for the support and access that is crucial to their university experience. Being a disabled student at university is tough and it takes guts to have the confidence to speak up about the support you need. I have grown this confidence after years of fighting to have appropriate support in place so I want to be the voice for other students who don’t have that confidence yet or who feel they aren’t being listened to. Being a disabled student in a lecture can be completely isolating and there is a huge lack of awareness from students and staff, I’d never want a student to feel that they’d been overlooked in their access needs. Throughout the rest of the year I will continue to be there for people and fight on their behalf as well as beginning to look at disability and employability and what support is available in the workplace.

While I always believe in the importance of ‘ability’ in ‘disability’, there is no denying that being a disabled student on campus is tough.”

RUSU says: Charlotte has been a really engaged PTO and has already gone above and beyond what is expected of her in the role. From introducing image descriptions on all RUSU social media to promoting accessibility on campus in University committees, Charlotte has taken all students with disabilities into account and has been a great voice for students with disabilities. Disability History Month starts on November 22nd and is something I have been fully involved in. We’re running a variety of sessions throughout the month including a #thinkfirst campaign to promote discussions about accessibility and what might not be appropriate to say to a disabled person for example “can deaf people drive?”. Get involved and use the hashtag on social media. We are also running a panel discussion on whether academia is accessible which will include both staff and students as well as a British Sign Language taster session and the creation of Facebook groups to create support networks and have discussions.

Also come along to the next Disabled students network on November 26th at 12pm! 12

Announcements Reps! ROSiE is here! ROSiE stands for Rep Online Student Impact Evaluation tool and is here to help you gather student feedback this year– head to

‘On the 26th November at 12pm, your Disabled Students’ Officer will be hosting the second Disabled Students Network of the academic year. Come along for hot drinks, biscuits, and the opportunity to meet friendly, likeminded students. Then, on the 29th November at 1pm, your Disabled Students’ Officer will be available in the RUSU Relaxation Room (upstairs 3Sixty) to meet students in a more quiet environment. Come along and say hello!’


“Be kind for whenever kindness becomes a part of something, it beautifies it”

Take part in our back page quiz and get a free Starbucks and Academic Rep water bottle!

Sharing a coffee with… UG Psychology School Rep DJ Bret

Quickfire Q’s Comedy or horror? Comedy Text or call? Call Pasta or pizza? Pizza Instagram or Twitter? Snapchat…I’m new to IG Early bird or night owl? Night owl Apple or android? Apple Truth or dare? Dare Cats or dogs? Both Book or movie? Movie Exam or Coursework? Exams… they’re over quicker Early Bird or Night Owl Twit Twoo

WHAT ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO OVER THE HOLIDAY PERIOD? Hopefully a trip abroad and spending time with family. FAVOURITE FESTIVE SONG/FILM? Dramatic miming to Wham! – Last Christmas.

WHAT’S YOUR EARLIEST MEMORY? Hiding inside the kitchen cupboard behind the potatoes when I was 3. FIRST THING YOU DO IN THE MORNING? Press snooze… and pray. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE THAT YOU’VE VISITED? I absolutely loved Copenhagen, Paris, Prague and of course Algiers. YOU HAVE A FREE WEEKEND, WHAT WOULD BE YOUR IDEAL WAY TO SPEND IT? Exploring a new place with friends and going with the flow. WHAT’S YOUR GUILTY PLEASURE? Hollyoaks… although I’m never up to date.

PSST… I’ll be launching “Breaking It Down – A seminar series supporting mental health” this month! The first seminar called Students v Stress & Anxiety will be on the 28th November, 1-3pm in the RUSU Boardroom. The second will be on 11th December. I really hope to see you there!