Like many organisations, we’ve gone through a lot of change over the last few weeks as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak. Following Government advice, we moved many of our services online from 18th March, and most of the Greenwich Students’ Union (GSU) staff team are now working at home.
This has been a big shift in how we work internally, and how we support you - our members - best. More than ever, we are focused on ensuring that you can still access our services and get the support you need.
Our full-time GSU Officers, who are also working from home, have still been involved meetings and conversations with the University, representing you and influencing changes in policy.
There has a been a lot of change all round across the Union and University…here’s a round-up of key things we’ve done and achieved in the last few weeks. We hope this and our ongoing work has a positive influence on you in the coming weeks and beyond.
- We quickly launched a Student Info microsite for all changes due to the Covid-19 outbreak (gresu.uk/studentinfo). Prior to this, our Officers had been working with the University to get student queries addressed in their online information, addressing the most pressing queries across the student community.
- Our Advice Service has expanded with more staff assisting by triaging queries, helping more students than ever (gresu.uk/advice)
- Our Officers provide regular updates on activities and changes via social media – check them out on Instagram and Facebook!
- One of our Officers had an online Q&A with the University Vice Chancellor. Henry and Jane had a video call Friday 27th March to answer some of students' questions about what the University and Union are doing now, how both organisations are supporting students, and some tips on looking after your wellbeing in the coming weeks.
- Our first Varsity with London South Bank Union was due to take place on 26th March and had to be postponed. That didn’t stop us marking the occasion though! Staff, Officers and student groups took part in online Varsity activity, and we reminisced about Varsity 2019, sharing various highlights online.
- We launched online StressBusters for students to help them with stress and wellbeing, particularly with their upcoming assessments and exams (gresu.uk/39H6wnb) - students can join in online from wherever they are.
- We’ll be announcing results for our Societies, Sports and Student Led Teaching Awards online on the original awards dates this month and in May (gresu.uk/awards).
- Our Village Shop in Avery Hill has changed its services to help students living on campus:
- It’s now running an order and collection service for essential, alongside hot food and drink (greenwichsu.co.uk/villageshop/order/)
- This includes over the weekends too, extending its opening hours
- Students and staff working in the NHS also get 15% discount
- Students have been able to get out of rent contracts early in halls of residence before Term 3. Any students remaining in halls will get a discount on their next set of fees.
- We have a lot of student staff roles at the Union that had to stop due to the advice about Covid-19 – our outlets and offices closed, leaving a lot of those roles without work. We very quickly worked with the University to help those affected, and the Vice Chancellor has given us a large amount of support. Student staff working for the Union will have their wages paid to them during our closure, right up to the end of the academic year.
- For any students who need financial assistance, there is now clarity of student hardship funds with online access available. Information is available on the University website at gre.ac.uk/finance/funding-your-studies/access-to-learning-fund.
- We joined with the universities and students' unions of Greenwich, Kent and Canterbury to write to landlords and accommodation providers, asking them to reduce financial pressure on student tenants during the Coronavirus outbreak (https://gresu.uk/2Xd9JIJ)
- GSU staff are working with the University Accommodation services to place pastoral phone calls to those remaining in halls to check in, provide a touch point, say hello, help with any queries, provide assurances and offer help if needed.
- Our Officers worked in partnership with the University on a number of academic processes, the results of which have resulted in new online panels, dissertation extensions, a No detriment policy for exams and assessments, and enhanced Extenuating Circumstances criteria to help students struggling due to the current situation.
- Part of this work also involved our GSU Officers getting student involvement in testing University systems for exam submission, ensuring that it would be effective for the whole student community.
- Last but not least, in the midst of all this, our governance work continued. This past year or so has seen significant changes to our governing structures at GSU. The final stage of those changes was to hold a General Meeting to amend our Constitution and formally embed our recent changes. The meeting was held online, chaired by our President, and all the amendments were passed.
Thank you to the Officers, staff and students involved in implementing all of this change in such a short period of time. It really does make us #ProudToBeGRE.