Putting fairness for low income students back on the table at York.
We must ask what we want our University to be: do we want it to carry on being a bubble of privilege or do we stand for diversity, equality and understanding?
We decided to run together after coming to the conclusion that we have similar aims and policies, therefore we thought it would be counterproductive to run against each other.
Working with other part time officers, as Working Class Officers we will fight to:
Create a sense of community and belonging in order to help people settle in and remind them that they are welcome and they deserve to be here. Coffee mornings and buddy schemes are two of many ways of doing this, and we will be open to suggestions from members of the working class network and others, according to what people find helpful.
Raise awareness of class issues through hosting events featuring academics, campaigners and of course, students; this will help to bring students from an isolated group closer to the decision making process. This would be part of my plan to normalise working class students’ experiences.
Push for greater information about and further coverage of various university schemes to deal with financial issues and attainment inequalities throughout the applications process (Widening Participation/contextual offers, more guarantor places, perhaps more generous bursaries) as well as introducing an Activities Bursary. Students should not be excluded from activities and socialising because they can't afford it, nor should they be turned down because of how they performed in exams on a certain day; their circumstances must be accounted for. To measure what a disadvantaged area is, we would advocate looking at the Indices of Multiple Deprivation, as well as looking at who is on Free School Meals as this is a good proxy, but it misses disadvantaged students who are not on Free School Meals.
Work with the university to reduce the impact of hidden costs such as books and trips - partly through bursaries but preferably through depts and library getting all course essential books wholesale or electronically. These are essential parts of a student’s learning experience and should be available to all.
Advocate for the following: cheaper rents - renovate accommodation but keep them cheap, perhaps cap prices for a few years; abolition or mitigation/subsidisation of accommodation deposits for disadvantaged students, they are very expensive and it can be quite hard to get hold of the money.
Extending the childcare centre’s opening hours, as single parents at university can have lectures & seminars that finish at 6 or later, therefore putting a huge strain on the accessibility for parents to come to University. This is a very big barrier for the many working-class parents trying to build a better future for their families.
Connor: I am a student who identifies strongly and passionately as working class and I want to encourage people to challenge the structures which may hinder their experience at university. I am lucky to be at university and not on the dole/in low paid work - education saved my life. In spite of this, university still seems very foreign to me, and it was clear from the referendum campaign that my experience is not an anomaly. I want to raise awareness of class issues and normalise the issues that working class people face.
Of course class is not purely economic, and the disadvantage felt at this university reflects this: there is a great feeling of middle class dominance, people feel alienated within their course by people who feel they can speak over them. People must feel comfortable at our university. Not only that, but equality and fairness in opportunity and better understanding of issues that people who are less advantaged than the average student face, is better for everyone - both in our tiny privileged microcosm as well as out in the ‘real world.’
I am suitable for the role for a number of reasons: firstly, I am working class - of course!; secondly, I ran the campaign to introduce the working class officer and won it, that is to say that I can be trusted to listen to people’s concerns; finally, the campaign to introduce the role was always polite and I intend to carry out the campaign and perform in the role in a similar fashion in order to make myself approachable as the officer if and when I am elected.
Sean: I’m a mature student aged 22 studying an undergraduate degree in Politics. I left school with poor GCSEs and started working on a building site aged 17. Throughout my life I have clawed for every penny and privilege I could manage, and thought nothing of these barriers until unforeseen circumstances allowed me go back into education - where I started to question the persistent inequality in our society, and actively sought to make things better. This is why I chose to study politics: I want to change the circumstances for working people, my people, and this position is the perfect start.
Apart from being culturally & economically working class, as I hope anyone applying for this position would be. Circumstances stopped me from continuing my education past secondary school and I found myself working full time on a building site aged 17. This situation can be very exploitative and I quickly learnt to argue for my most basic rights e.g. wages. I believe my grit and determination to argue for what is right will serve me and working class interests in this role.