Clara Priestley is the President of the Students’ Union (SU) at Liverpool Hope University. Clara and her team - which includes Stephanie Trujillo, Vice President for Welfare - are currently busy welcoming students back to Hope at the beginning of an exciting new academic term. And here Clara - a Politics and International Relations student originally from Ireland - gives an update on some of the vital work the SU has been engaged with behind the scenes:
“First of all, I’d like to say a big hello to all of the students who’ve arrived at Hope for the start of the new academic term. If you’re brand new, have a great Welcome Week and rest assured, you’re going to have a brilliant experience here.
And I’d also like to share a story which I think illustrates how the Hope Students’ Union might be able to offer support should you ever need it.
A lady rang the SU - and she was in floods of tears, worrying about her daughter. This was the mother of a second year student who’d spent very little time on campus last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The student was, completely understandably, really anxious about coming back to class and interacting with people she’d only ever met on Zoom. And I told the mum, ‘Look, I can’t stress enough just how much I relate to your daughter’. We arranged for both student and mum to come to campus, have a little look around, and we also went for a coffee together. By the end of it, the student told me how excited she is about coming to the University. How can I relate so much? Well, I had a hard time in school. I hated it. And my mum was the one who tried so hard to help me through it. Anxiety still follows me. I go through peaks and troughs like a lot of people, but it’s a very real part of my life. And I wanted the mum and daughter to know that they’re not the only people in this situation. There are so many students who haven’t yet met their tutors in person. There are also lots of students who’ll never get the experience of living on campus because the pandemic took that away from them in 2020.
And the message from the SU is clear - if you’re struggling, if you’re worried, or if you have any concerns at all, reach out to us and we will try our best to help you. Come into the SU office - located in the Lecture Theatre Complex at Hope Park - and we can have a cup of tea and a chat.
This is why I became President - to make sure people don’t have to feel the same way I felt. I have all the time in the world for anyone who is feeling nervous about what has been a really uncertain time.
When it comes to Welcome Week, we’ve prepared a bumper series of events to cater for TWO year groups - both brand new students and also those who missed out in 2020 because of Covid-19.
You can check-out the full calendar of events for each campus by simply heading here: https://www-hope-ac-uk.ezproxy.hope.ac.uk/hopesocial/
And it’s really important to stress that we’ve got lots of online events for anyone who still feels slightly nervous about coming to campus. We understand that for some people social distancing still takes priority and they’re not quite ready to jump back into reality. Rest assured, everything we have planned has an online alternative.
I’d also say this - make sure you check out all of the different societies at Hope, and get involved if you can. The Freshers’ Fair at Hope Park on Wednesday 6th October is a great opportunity to do this (as well as to grab a load of freebies!).
When it comes to societies, there’s something for everyone. And if you can’t find the perfect society for you, simply start your own! We’ve actually lowered the threshold this year, which means you only need three people to start a society - a President, a Treasurer and a Secretary. It’s a great opportunity to really carve out your own niche.
We also have an ‘Adopt a Society’ scheme, where you can take over an existing society which might have fallen by the wayside as the original founders who have since graduated and moved on. One example of that is the ‘Feminist Society’ - and the ‘Wallace and Gromit Society’ is also up for grabs!
The beauty of adopting is that you don’t need to start from scratch - the infrastructure is all there for you.
You might have seen the SU has produced a new guide for trans and non-binary students, spearheaded by Jack Evans, part-time officer for Trans and Non-binary students.
And it’s something we’re really proud of. You’ll see it in the halls of residence, it’s got its own stand at the Freshers’ Fair, and it’s being given to the international students, too. Chances are you’ll see it across all of our campuses.
My SU needs to be a safe one - that is my main goal. If you look at the events of last summer you’ll find reports of homophobic attacks while the Sarah Everard murder also had a seismic effect. These are events that affected two huge cohorts at Hope - namely women and the LGBTQ+ community. And it’s a priority that they feel comfortable in Liverpool.
You might also have seen how Hope has signed a new partnership with the abuse prevention charity Tender, who run a unique ‘Shoulder2Shoulder’ initiative.
Tender delivers domestic abuse and sexual violence prevention training to students, while also creating a crucial peer-to-peer support mechanism. The training sessions, which will take place across this academic year, will explore the full spectrum of unhealthy behaviours and abuse, highlighting an individual’s rights and responsibilities to positive and respectful relationships, and increasing understanding of help-seeking and reporting routes.
We’re now about to start the first stage of compulsory training, which will involve everyone in the SU. The next stage will involve training for all of the sports captains and sports presidents.
I’m really, really keen to see good engagement with the training all round, but particularly with the sports teams. Of course, I’m not just blaming boys, but if we can stamp out ‘lad culture’ and raise awareness of bystander negligence, then I feel like that’s a really good starting point.
This is a national problem. But I’m so passionate about this and I want to make a real difference.
Again, if you want someone to talk to, know that you can talk to me and you will be believed.
Email me on firstname.lastname@example.org. There are also official channels you go through via the university, too: https://www-hope-ac-uk.ezproxy.hope.ac.uk/gateway/students/studentdevelopmentandwell-being/
The Hope SU is also working hard behind the scenes to try and secure funding from Sport England to encourage more women into sport, setting up girls only fitness sessions, and also getting more people with disabilities into sport.
As part of this move, I’m also looking to get our vibrant Cheerleading team to compete, moving them from a society to an official sports team.
I’ll give you an update on this as soon as I can!