By Jack Robert Stacey | Editor-in-Chief
Gair Rhydd spoke to Charlotte Towlson, the Vice-President of Welfare and Campaigns, about the importance of student welfare and feedback at a time when many are making the transition back to campus and a sense of ‘normality’.
The Sabbatical Team’s focus for the year
“One of our priorities as a team”, she began, “is to be communicating and creating a nice environment” for students in order “to ensure that people know that [support] is there” and available for them.
Focusing on the impact of COVID-19 on the overall “student experience”, Towlson said that “being there for students is very important” this year. She recognised that, even though there is a “huge range of support” available around the University, one of the key challenges facing the Sabbatical Team is that some students may not “actually know a lot about the SU unless [they] engage with it” and, as a result, will not “know that there is support” available for them.
As part of her role this year, Towlson asserts that all of her efforts and campaigns will be focused around “listening to students,” providing them with “an input” into what happens at the University, and also “sign-posting them in the right direction for support if they need it”.
According to a recent report published by Randstad, the three most significant factors on the mental wellbeing of students are academic stress, financial pressures and balancing studies with work; with academic stress being highlighted as “the top factor impacting the state of mental wellbeing”. Amongst other findings, the report also suggested that 42% of university-level students access counselling support during their studies – The report concluded that, overall, these services have a “positive impact” on student mental wellbeing.
With this in mind, Gair Rhydd asked Charlotte Towlson which key areas of student life the Sabbatical Team are focusing their attention on and what kind of input students can expect to have this year.
Towlson continued that her role this year “is focused around giving students what they’d like to see” by working with other members of the Sabbatical Team and the existing support provided by the University to “improve the student experience.” An “experience” that she recognises may understandably feel different to the one students saw last year as the result of the outbreak of COVID-19.
Although the current Sabbatical Team “haven’t started that long ago”, Towlson outlined her plans to get more students involved with campaigns in order to raise awareness on topics like mental health, consent, student housing, and sexual harassment. All of this, she said, should run alongside familiar events like ‘Speak Week’ and ‘Mind Your Head’ so that students “can educate themselves” and also “provide their input on a wide range of topics”.
Engagement with students
Moving forwards, she said that “engagement” with students “is a huge thing” for her this year.
“Students”, she added, “need to have an input” on what happens at all levels of University life. As an elected official acting on behalf of Cardiff University students, she raised that it is critical for the Sabbatical team to gauge student opinion and “listen to that” before making decisions this year – Otherwise, she said, “we wouldn’t be doing anything” for them.
In summary, Towlson told Gair Rhydd that she is aiming to make support more accessible for students and intends to structure campaigns around the feedback the Students’ Union receives about life at the University this year. With this focus on student feedback, she hopes that the various campaigns and volunteering opportunities on offer this year will create “positive changes all of our students”.
Towlson’s key focus for the year
As “the student support that’s within the University is already very strong”, Charlotte Towlson concluded by saying that she would be working closely with Cardiff University to support everyone and remains optimistic that, regardless of whatever challenges they may have faced over the last few months, “it will be a good year for students”.