I first began as a student representative in my second year of university in 2019 and will have continued my role up until my graduation in 2021. I have therefore represented my cohort from the start of the pandemic and through all three national lockdowns.
Prior to the pandemic, gathering feedback and representing the cohort’s ideas and issues were relatively simple. I would pass my blue notebook around each lecture hall and gain anonymous written feedback, whether that be negative or positive. I would then collect my book at the end and collate the comments ready for Programme Committee Meetings (PCMs) or general rep/staff meetings. I also used our Facebook page as a mutual site to share feedback from meetings and upcoming lectures and events that may benefit the cohort.
COVID-19 posed a new challenge for everyone. Students had obstacles of their own to overcome and unfortunately tuning in with student reps fell lower as a priority - which we can all understand. As student reps we ensured we updated the Facebook page as often as we could, however with a shortage of information not much reassurance could be given. None of us had the answers to the questions being asked and, unfortunately, there was nothing we could do but promise we were doing our best. Reps also had concerns and worries; we too were uncertain about the continuing of lecturers, work experience, and fieldwork. Most of all we shared the concern for those close to us and the financial predicaments we would all find ourselves in.
Our role now had added responsibility. We must upkeep the communication between the University and students, with the added pressure of staying neutral and unopinionated. We put our own needs aside to ensure our cohort was being heard and receiving the support they needed. Together we worked to find new methods to gain feedback and to communicate effectively.
My blue book now had no use but to make notes. Facebook was our only way forward to deliver updates and gain feedback with our cohort. Little did we realise that asking for it would not persuade everyone to participate. My blue book served well because it was effortless and seeing students taking part persuaded other to do the same… turning virtual caused our feedback rates to drop. We needed something better, another platform that was easier to use and more inviting. SurveyMonkey was our new step to gain the feedback we needed. SurveyMonkey allows anonymous feedback and multiple-choice responses, making it more useful than Facebook. We hope this will serve as an incentive for those in the cohort to engage like they used to pre-pandemic.
Above all and regardless of the unexpected circumstances we would not trade our roles for anything. As student reps we are proud of the changes we aid and feel our roles are vitally rewarding in such difficult times.
Thank you for reading this article.