Students staying on the Heslington West Campus have been left with just one porter to help them over the holidays. YUSU have slammed this decision and it appears there is already some evidence to back up their concerns as a disabled alarm went off at 3.25 this morning in Alcuin, meaning the College porter had to attend to the incident; this would have left the rest of the Heslington West campus temporarily with no porter if it had occurred next week.
YUSU President Kallum Taylor commented on this incident and cited further concerns over the University’s winter staffing model: “This begs the question on just how much the University have taken into account the spread of disabled students over the holiday period, in relation to their staffing model. The routes we’ve gone through to find out their numbers across campus have not so far been able to give us an answer – which then brings up further issues, ie. how they deliver their gritting service most appropriately to the right areas. If they don’t know, then this needs paying attention to.”
Although there will be 24 hour portering on Heslington East and Halifax, around 550 students on the main campus will have just one member of staff, to help with their problems.
According to Taylor there are still 700 students staying on campus over the holidays, 550 of which will be staying on Heslington West in Alcuin, Vanbrugh, Derwent, James and Wentworth Colleges. However the only porter will be at Wentworth College Reception, a substantial distance from some of the other colleges.
There will be no other college staff on Heslington West until 27th December when some staff will work during the day.
Taylor has criticised the fact that there is 24 hour staffing in the Hub on Heslington East and in Halifax but not on the main campus, commenting in a blog post: “There is 24-hour staffing in the Hub on Hes East and in Halifax – so why does the University think it’s OK to leave four Colleges without any porters?”
He added: “I think it’s even more crucial over Christmas, when it’s freezing outside, it’s dark at 4pm, paths are icing up and as few as one in ten rooms are occupied in some colleges. For some students, their on-campus room isn’t just a term-time thing; it’s their home. For what they’re paying, they deserve better.”
In response to what he calls “skeleton Christmas cover” Taylor has written a letter to the heads of Portering, asking for details on how the arrangements were decided and calling the situation “inadequate”.
He argues that “This is during a time in which due to the low temperature, students are significantly more likely to need to contact porters about maintenance issues, such as trouble with heating or windows not fully closing.”
Taylor adds:”Furthermore, with campus so quiet and many students thousands of miles from home, there is in the emptier colleges the need for reception staff, simply for students’ social wellbeing over Christmas.”
The YUSU President also highlighted the needs of students staying in Alcuin over the holidays shown by this morning’s incident: “I am particularly concerned about the thirty students planning to reside in Alcuin over Christmas, who are likely to feel extremely isolated with the college mostly empty and the nearest member of staff a significant distance away.”
At the recent YUSU referenda, a motion calling for YUSU to lobby for 24 hour staffing in each college received almost unanimous support with 847 voting ‘Yes’, 70 ‘No’, and 44 abstentions. This result was also highlighted by Taylor in his letter, which you can read in full here.
Taylor commented on the referendum in his blog post saying: “A few weeks ago, an overwhelming majority of you backed a referendum motion to lobby for full 24-hour staffing in every College – not because it’s an easy idea to back – but because you recognise what an important service it is to many students.”
A University spokesperson defended the position on portering over the holidays commenting that YUSU should have made their stance clear before the holidays began: “It’s a pity YUSU didn’t raise this issue with us until after the end of term.
They added: “We will have 24-hour staff in Halifax College, Wentworth College and on Heslington East throughout the Christmas holidays together with a roving, 24-hour Security team covering the whole campus; and there will be staff in the University Library 24 hours a day, every day except the 25-26th and 1st of January. In addition, there will be daytime staff in James College, Alcuin College and Derwent College on weekdays between Christmas and New Year. York Sports Village and cafe will also be open every day except 25-26 December and 1 January. Finally, a number of College Provosts and their teams will be organising events over the holiday – including at least one Provost who will be in College on Christmas Day.”
They also went on to criticise YUSU for closing all of their facilities over the holiday period: “By contrast, the YUSU offices, YUSU food outlets and YUSU shop will be closed throughout the festive period…”
However Taylor has hit back at the accusation that YUSU should have raised the issue before the holidays: “As opposed to finding out at the end of Week 10, by chance, it’s of some reassurance at least that next time, come Easter vacation, they’ll seriously and formally involve us in planning staffing and services over the holidays.”