Warwick SU Council calls for Residential Life Team reforms to be cancelled

The council passed the motion unanimously

Warwick’s Student Union Council have unanimously passed a motion calling for the uni’s proposed Residential Life Team reforms to be halted.

They claim the uni has “not done sufficient research into the impacts of its proposal on students or staff… to justify the implementation of such radical changes”, and propose the reforms be halted until a more thorough consultation involving current Residential Life Tutors (RLTs) has been conducted.

The University of Warwick says the changes will provide more proactive wellbeing support for students.

On March 8th, the motion was passed by the Student Council, the Union’s highest decision making body. It has 28 set members, including the Full-Time Student Officers, Part-Time Student Officers and Chairs of SU Committees.

The motion document describes the current system of Residential Life Tutors (RLTs) as a “core component” of the wellbeing support system of students living on campus, because they are available to students 24/7 and provide a stopgap for those needing interim support before they can access professional counselling from Warwick Wellbeing Services.

However, the University Executive Board has voted to replace RLTs with Residential Community Assistants (RCAs), following an internal RLT Review, led by the Director of Wellbeing and Safeguarding.

RCAs will be third-year undergraduates or postgraduate students who will live in flats alongside those they have a duty of care towards. They will only be available for support to students between 17:00-23:00 each day, hours for which they are paid. A small team of administrators will live off-site to cover outside of these hours. Outside of their assigned hours, RCAs will apparently have no obligation to intervene in incidents.

The SU Council heavily critique these changes. They claim the changes will have a huge impact on student welfare because RCAs will not be available 24/7, especially impacting disabled, neurodivergent and otherwise vulnerable students who often require support outside of the proposed RCA hours. They also suggest there will be more incident of “sharking”, or RCAs taking sexual advantage of freshers.

The SU Council claims the changes will impact student welfare

The motion document also identifies the potential problems for future third year undergraduate RCAs, such as facing a great burden as they will be expected to balance RCA duties with their coursework, final exams and future plans.

As for current RLTs, they will be forced out of their homes in August. Many will be unable to apply for RCA roles as the part-time contract excludes those with families and pets, and payment does not cover the cost of the more expensive accommodations. Previously, RLTs had on-campus accommodation provided, costing only a £600 utility bill per annum.

The proposed changes will also affect current RLTs.

The SU Council claims the uni has not done enough research into their proposal’s impacts, and their release of information on the changes has been “unacceptably piecemeal and inconsistent, indicating a deeply unprofessional lack of preparation and organisation”. They also claim it “risks inviting yet further scandal and allegations of prioritising profit over student and staff welfare, incurring even greater damage to Warwick’s already sub-par reputation on these fronts.”

Therefore, the SU opposed the proposed changes, suggesting a more thorough and transparent consultation and review of RLTs be conducted involving the entire cohort of RLTs as every stage.

A University of Warwick spokesperson said: “The welfare of our students is our top priority. Our new approach to supporting students in their accommodation is responsive to changing student expectations and provides clarity and a consistent student experience, which will in turn help safeguard our community of staff and students.

“Support will be more visible, more accessible, Residential Community Assistants will facilitate events and activities that provide proactive wellbeing support and it will be clearer what students can expect from the service.

“The current Residential Life Team (RLT) system was set up in 1965 and provides welfare and support to students, currently on a voluntary basis. We reviewed the system to examine what we do, and how we do it and conducted a broad-based consultation that drew on feedback from our community, including students and existing RLT volunteers. We looked across the sector and incorporated best practice from other institutions into a new evidence-informed model that is peer-led.

“From September, students with relevant and recent experience will be employed to help their peers, creating a sense of a belonging. More opportunities will be available to our students and this will support their transition to independence, as well as providing space for personal development and growth for residents.

“The University is hugely grateful to all members of the Residential Life Team (RLT) who have volunteered their time and the tremendous amount of brilliant work they have done, over decades. Many students will have hugely benefitted from the significant contribution of individuals within the team.

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