Hall JCRs condemn pastoral changes and announce plans for a demonstration
‘This new proposal is not fit for purpose’
Every single Junior Common Room (JCR) Committee at Bristol University has signed an open letter condemning planned changes to the provision of pastoral care in halls of residence.
Amid mounting signs of a backlash against the new wellbeing model, some 80 JCR Presidents, Treasurers and other Committee members from the Clifton, Stoke Bishop and City Centre halls signed a lengthy 3,000 word letter that argued the current system was superior to the alternative being proposed by Residential and Hospitality Services (RHS).
Claiming to speak for some 6,000 first years, the JCRs contend that a planned 70% drop in live-in pastoral care "poses a risk to vulnerable students, especially those suffering with mental health issues." The letter is addressed to the University Board of Trustees, ahead of its meeting later this month.
At present in halls there are around 150 Senior Residents and 14 Student Support Advisers, alongside 12 Wardens and their equivalent Deputies.
Under the new model, there will instead be a 'Residential Life Service', with each of the three hubs set to have one Residential Life Manager, one Residential Life Administrator, five Residential Life Advisers and around a third of the 54 student Residential Life Mentors.
The letter expresses doubts about whether the University will be able to fill these new posts that are set to be created in time for the 2018/19 academic year. It criticised too how "the new model does not commit to administrators being wellbeing trained" and claimed that the feedback on which the model has been based was not representative of the student community.
'Keep Our Communities'- a student run campaign group opposed to the proposed changes- published the letter in full on its website. The group also announced a #HandsOffOurHalls march, set to take place on February 3rd to "show the University management that our communities matter, and that these changes will cause more harm than good."
The JCRs are not alone in their opposition to the changes: Hall Associations have also issued an extensive critique of the new system whilst half of Bristol's Senior Residents co-signed their own letter attacked cuts to pastoral care. A petition set up by first year student Leonardo De Rezende 'Stop abolition of Wardens and SRs' has meanwhile attracted some 3,400 signatures .
In response to the high levels of engagement so far, the University has extended the consultation deadline to February 9th and has decided to hold two open meetings to "allow all staff and students to hear more about the proposal, ask further questions and make further comments."