Julian Porch – JP for Academic Officer
Hello! I’m JP, a final year undergraduate studying English and Related Literature. Throughout my time at the University of York, I have seen and heard of incredible academic changes made by students voicing their ideas and concerns. I believe that there is more to do, more voices to be heard, more change to be made. I want to represent students’ voices at York, and facilitate an effectual dialogue between students and the University at all levels to effect real change for all students. If elected, my term as Academic Officer will be founded on the principles of inclusivity, engagement and stewardship, and I hope my manifesto will show this.
A – Awareness
All over campus there are pre-existing services which can be used to enhance the academic experience of students. Two of the biggest among these are the University library and the Careers service. The services they provide are often unknown to students, and so I will run a promotional campaign to increase the visibility and usage of all the services offered by the University by:
- Producing a small booklet with a comprehensive list and guide to the academic services on campus. This would be distributed in Freshers’ packs, and through seminar tutors to all students.
- Commissioning standing banners signposting these services and placing them in high profile areas on campus, such as the library bridge and entrance, Market Square, college hubs, on the bridges surrounding the lake on West campus, and in the Ron Cooke Hub on East campus.
- Coordinating with departments for lecturers to briefly promote relevant services at the start of lectures.
B – Boost your academic experience
I want to boost the overall academic experience of students at York. The most part of this will involve working closely with the Faculty, Department, and hundreds of Course Reps, listening to what they have to say, and acting accordingly. Aside from this, I have some specific intentions. If elected, I will:
- Negotiate with departments, using feedback from Course and Department Reps, to devise electronic resources available on the VLE targeted at first years (but hopefully useful to all) which explain from basics the academic conventions and processes involved in conducting research, or writing a report or an essay. Essentially, they would go through the practicals of university study, e.g. how to present data in a report, or how to write an essay, in a simple way to make academia more accessible to students arriving at York, Combined Course students, and students who switch courses.
- Explore options with departments to invest in subsidised course materials (e.g. textbooks, key primary texts) for core modules to lend to students in receipt of the York Bursary. Investment in the core modules, which don’t change often, would therefore require initial investment and then minimal upkeep.
- Develop a system (inspired by the current library seating trackers and the Interactive Campus Map) which flags key study areas on both campuses, including the library and computer rooms, and provides real-time seating updates, so students can remotely see where there’s space to study on campus before leaving class or home. This can be achieved by installing student card swipe points similar to those used in the library turnstiles (but without the physical barrier) and automatically tracking the numbers in each library/study area.
- Further the Athena SWAN initiative at York by aiming to achieve more awards across all departments, but with a focus on STEM subjects. I would create a dialogue between departments with awards and those without to identify what can be done to advance gender equality in STEM subjects in Higher Education.
- Continue working towards a total shift to opt-out lecture capture in all departments, specifically targeting departments which face logistical problems, such as using blackboards. Trialling lecture capture will allow for these logistical issues to be evaluated and troubleshot. Otherwise, I will explore alternate ways of making lectures more accessible to all students with department and course reps.
C – Collaboration
The role of Academic Officer necessarily involves collaboration with a huge array of people. If elected, I will:
- Coordinate with departments to explore options for student input into the selection process for supervisors for PGTs and undergraduates writing a dissertation.
- Encourage and facilitate more communication between departments to improve Combined Course students’ academic experiences, specifically with regards to making sure Joint Hons. students are receiving detailed feedback and tutorial information. I will also strive to make standards for things like Exceptional Circumstances the same across departments. Further, for those Combined Course students who are not given the option to write a dissertation, I will explore with the relevant departments the possibility of writing one for credit on an opt-in basis.
- Liaise with Estates Services and the DSN to complete an extensive survey of accessibility points to academic buildings on both campuses to evaluate the potential benefits of investment in minor construction projects, such as installation of ramps and accessible doors based on the traffic each accessibility point receives and construction plans for the building/area in question.
- Continue the excellent work being doing regarding liberating curriculum. Following the NUS campaign “Why Is My Curriculum White”, the call to engage more with BAME material and scholarship. There has also been a call to engage more with LGBTQ material and scholarship. As such, I propose to facilitate meetings with University departments and representatives from the Liberation and Welfare Network (a body designed to consider the equality and diversity commitments of YUSU and the University) to directly address course content specifically to deliver maximum educational gain for all students, in accordance with the York Pedagogy.
- Continue coordinating with and supporting departments, the Timetabling team and the SSIP to improve timetabling for as wide a range of students as possible to ensure students have sufficient breaks between contact hours.
- Establish termly Careers events specifically targeted towards liberation groups. Whether this be skills seminars, or hosting employers from a particular occupational field, these events would be conceived with the guidance of Liberation and Welfare Network.