A term in the life of Community & Well-being

By Dom Smithies (Community & Wellbeing officer)

So term is over and it’s December; the Starks can’t say that winter is coming anymore.

All throughout term I’ve been posting weekly updates of what I’m going to be up to each week; what meetings I’ll be at, what events I’ll be attending to and what work I’ll be doing in the spare time I can find between doing everything else. I thought I’d take the first bit of the holiday to reflect on how the term has gone, what I’ve been doing and some lessons I’ve learnt.

It’s common for Unions to only talk about what they’ve achieved, the wins they’ve had and only demonstrate the impact they’ve made. The challenge with that, of course, is that the nature of our role involves us being here for such a short space of time we rarely get to see the impact we’ve made. But we are constantly challenging, asking difficult questions and raising awareness of things, in the meetings we attend, in our campaigns and in the events we run. And we start a lot of projects, get a lot of balls rolling, and leave it to staff and our successors to carry on and finish up.

I know it’s going to seem quite extensive and dry but I want it to be as all-encompassing as possible (even though I’ll probably still forget a few things), I’ll give you all the liberty of not outlining all of the admin & email work I do on top of attending all these meetings – you’re welcome. It might not be the most personable or engaging blog I’ve done, but the buzzwords of the elections back in January were ‘transparency’ and ‘accountability’ so y’all are only getting what you asked for – again, you’re welcome.

To view my fully comprehensive round-up of where I’ve been, who I’ve been with and what I’ve been doing click here. It is quite long, but what can I say – I work hard.

The key things I’ve been up to:

  • Consent

    • Supported the Women’s Officers in delivering the consent talks at the start of term

    • Have been challenging and pushing the University to ensure consent talks are a compulsory element of the Fresers’ Week Welcome.

    • Wrote a blog about them: http://www.yusu.org/blogs/view/2002/consent-talks

  • Health

    • Have been working hard on the Student Health Needs Assessment Steering Group to ensure the student voice is heard on the provision of services & support for health (mental health, drug use and sexual health in particular).

    • Have worked with Millie to get feedback to Unity Health on their new appointment system

    • Have been trying to get the student voice heard on the new mental health hospital that’ll be due in York.

    • Supported Colleges & PTOs in campaigns they’ve been running

    • Wrote a blog on what I’ve been doing around health and how students can have their input: http://www.yusu.org/blogs/2016/november/mental-health-what-you-can-do-about-it

  • Responding to the UUK Report that was released on examining harassment, hate crime and reporting at Universities.

    • You can view the report here: http://bit.ly/2erLAWN

    • You can view the guidelines for HE Institutions here: http://bit.ly/2gZEdbS

    • Have been challenging the University to seriously address the recommendations & guidelines of the report.

      • Will be on the Working Group around this report and hopefully will be joined by the Women’s Officers

      • Am on the interview panel for the new ‘Assistant Registrar for Community Cohesion and Respect’ and have been agenda-setting to ensure this will be one of their first priorities.

      • Have met with most key members of staff to outline the importance of doing so.

      • Attended an event run for Student Support Services staff on how to implement it which was hugely insightful.

      • I will be writing a blog about this in the future once there are more updates from the working group.

  • LibWelf

    • Revamping the Liberation & Welfare Committee to be the central committee for running campaigns across campus on anything and everything related to liberation or well-being.

    • Trained all the new college liberation / well-being reps.

    • Established working groups and signposted individuals to pre-existing groups where they can collaborate and organise in order to achieve the campaigns they want to run!


What I’ve learnt:

  • I was told at the start of the year that if you achieve 60% of your manifesto by the end of the year, you’ve been a pretty successful officer. It was probs the hardest thing I’ve had to accept. I’m not going to achieve all that I set-out to or all that I want to – and there are various reasons for that.

    • Lots of projects have been started and will hopefully see their way to fruition over time

    • You have to be adaptable because things will have cropped up since elections (Brexit, reports & national policy changes appearing all over the HE sector, student campaigns/events/projects, etc.) and you have to make time for them. So lots of work is being done and lots is being achieved still!

  • I need to be more rigorous with maintaining my self-care routine and finding more me-time. I wanted to be doing more yoga and trying out Quidditch but haven’t given myself the time to do so.

  • This job involves a lot of emails, admin, social media-ing and meeting people. A LOT.

  • The student body is hugely diverse and does amazing and incredible things that I wasn’t even aware when I was a student.

  • Being honest, open, frank and asking bold questions is encouraged and welcomed – and is a sure-fire way to bring things up and enact change.

  • You have to learn to say no – and to prioritise. Always have to keep in mind that I represent students and their interests and should allocate all my time, effort and energy accordingly.


Do give the full report a skim, I tried to keep it as extensive and comprehensive as possible so I am fully transparent and accountable. I kept it separate to the blog just so I could pick out the highlights for those who aren’t keen to traipse through the whole thing, but if you are keen &/ interested - it’s there for you!

All that’s left to say is that I hope you all have a very happy holidays! I hope your yuletide is gay and that you are surrounded by good food, good company and all the cheer in the world.


Peace (on Earth) & Love (to all),

Dom xoxo