YUSU have faced criticism for publishing 5000 community and wellbeing booklets for freshers while allegedly saying “little” about college welfare services – on top of incorrectly defining homosexuality.
The move from the Students’ Union was a manifesto pledge from Mia Shantana Chaudhuri-Julyan, the Community and Wellbeing Officer. The aim of the booklet is to signpost students to wellbeing-related support services. However, the emphasis of the content was on centralised services, including counselling service Open Door.
Speaking to Nouse, a University college tutor, who chose to remain anonymous, was critical of the booklet: “College staff give up so much of their time to make sure students are happy and on course for success while at York.” The tutor continued. “How could YUSU promote so many external charities, helplines and services but say so little about one of the fundamental aspects of this University? Bombarding freshers with copious political jargon and copied-and-pasted NUS nonsense is totally unnecessary when they are only just getting their bearings. Some of the booklet is good, but much of it is clumsily worded and patronising – for instance, homosexuality is not “being attracted to people of the same sexuality.”
The tutor cited the definition of Assistant Head of College, which simply reads “Works underneath the head of college”, as “reductive”. It is understood that the inaccurate definition of homosexuality, mentioned by the tutor, caused YUSU to issue an apology to those offended. Nouse contacted YUSU’s LGBTQ Officer, Henry Fairnington, who gave the following statement: “The mistake with the definition isn’t good, but it was an innocent error and everyone involved has apologised. To be honest, I think the definitions were the priority, as the individual colleges have welcome packs of their own. We tried to cut down the definitions as much as possible, but we believed them all to be important things to make people aware of.”
When asked how colleges have conveyed their offers of welfare support to new students, the Assistant Head of Derwent College, Keith Kinsella, responded to Nouse: “We have promoted the services on offer through college orientation sessions, where new students got to meet the college teams in person, and discuss common pastoral issues and the services available in college and on campus. College kitchens all display details of how to access college support.
“It is great that this handbook has been distributed for the first time; if students feel that they would like more information included in it about college wellbeing support then this is something YUSU will no doubt take on board.”
YUSU’s Community and Wellbeing Officer, Mia Shantana Chaudhuri-Julyan, issued the following statement in response to the criticism: “This is the first time that a dedicated resource of this type to help students understand support and representation systems has been produced by officers. I’m really proud that I’ve been able to secure funding so that every single first year received a copy in their welcome pack.
“The freshers’ booklet lists the college welfare team as the first support service in the ‘in office hours’ section. It is intended not to be exhaustive but to provide a brief overview and signpost alongside the colleges’ own inductions as well as the other ways in which information on support services is circulated across the University to students.”