Rivals clash in SU debate on proposed hall changes

The battle continues between hubs and halls

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Friday night saw rival referendum camps clash in a debate on the proposed changes for pastoral care in halls of residence, ahead of the Bristol Students’ Union referendum on Monday.

The motion of the debate was as follows: "The University of Bristol has proposed changes to the pastoral support system in residences which include a change from managing pastoral support in each residence to managing pastoral support in clusters of residences (‘hubs’). Should Bristol SU oppose any model for pastoral support which includes this change?"

Ben Bloch, Cris Oehling Pascual and Will Awad represented the Yes campaign, while SU officers Lucky Dube and Stan Ford spoke in opposition. Both sides were given five minutes to make an introductory speech, and later answered questions from the floor under timed conditions.

The No campaign started the debate by detailing how a recent survey of approximately 800 students highlighted the need for more proactive support. This study also revealed a desire for more consistent support in halls of residence, which the No campaign believe the hub system would offer to students.

Lucky and Stan proceeded to emphasise that the hub system would ensure more opportunities for cross-residence events. They also stated that employing people to work in hubs would be beneficial for students, as employees under the new system would be able to dedicate their time to providing pastoral support. This would mean that shifts could be organised in a way that ensures a member is staff is available at any given point to help students.

Members of the Yes campaign rebutted these points by saying that students would be less likely to visit hubs than SRs to get help, and that the hub system would remove the family feeling in halls. They emphasised that wardens not only help students who visit them for help, but they proactively look out for students who appear to be struggling.

The Yes campaign also emphasised the pragmatic role of current SRs and wardens. They are responsible for hosting events for specific halls, and thus knowledge about what works for particular residences would be lost under the new system.

Students asked questions referring to whether hubs will successfully replace the collective knowledge of wardens and whether the new system will be accessible and build communities. Both sides agreed that information on student welfare would be centralised under the proposed system, but that it would take time to implement the full transfer of knowledge from SRs to clusters of hubs under the new system.

In a follow-up statement from the debate, a spokesperson from the Yes campaign said: "A hub system will result in depersonalised pastoral care. Students will not have the opportunity to get to know the pastoral team as in the current system, and this loss of personal connection will result in more reactive care, and likely tragedy. "

"Students will end up being one of a number in communities of 2,000 odd students, which will be a very lonely experience. That is not what halls were for us, and we cannot let them become like that for future Bristol students. Vote YES – Halls not Hubs!"

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the No campaign commented: "A ‘Yes’ vote mandates the SU to oppose any proposal with hub management, even if that model would meet student need and addressed concerns voiced by students and stuff thus far."

"Freedom of feedback allows us to focus on critical areas we need to retain in the current model, such as on the ground support, and advise on weaknesses of the proposals such as volume of staff."

Students will be able to vote from 9am on Monday (11th) to 9pm on Wednesday (14th) on the Bristol SU website here.