Ste Smith – It’s Time to Raise the Bar

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3 students walk in to a campus bar… Oh no, wait! They don’t!

So I tried to start my comment piece off with a bit of a joke, risky I hear you say? I could have gone for something more standard, I mean it would have been more fitting for my Freshers’ Week piece to reflect on what a fantastic time you’re about to have and the year ahead. Maybe throw in a few buzz phrases such as ‘best years of your life’ and ‘make the most of it’. Perhaps even more of a serious stance, a mention of £9,000 fees for example?

But no, I thought I’d do something completely original and start off with a joke. However, it’s such a shame that the current situation around bars isn’t much of a laughing matter.

I’m not going to bang on about the structural changes relating to staff, there’s been enough coverage of that so far and I want to focus on the bigger picture here: your experience. To do this, I believe that there has to be an acceptance that the bars don’t work in their current format. I may not be an expert but I know that students have a tendency to vote with their feet, and there hasn’t been enough life or energy around our bars of late.

The bars aren’t just there to serve alcohol, they are our College spaces and there’s so much more to them than that! We should be in there socialising, doing work and making the most of the space we have available to us. There should be more events and campaigns as well as decent offers and food provisions to attract us to using the service. We need to have something that makes our bar distinctive. We need to have a space that we enjoy being in.

The bars issue isn’t going to solve itself over night. There has to be a cultural change and we, the students, need to be the catalyst for that change.

I want to give the opportunity for students to air their grievances, suggest changes and ask questions in a safe forum and that is exactly why I’ve made the decision to call a General Meeting. You all have the opportunity to attend and make your voices heard.

But a General Meeting should not be the final step. We need to ensure that there’s a continuous process of student consultation with regards to our College spaces, and I will make sure that LUSU is involved in that process. You all have the opportunity to elect Officers in your Colleges and they should be used to represent your views. We want to continue working with the University to ensure that your elected representatives have the opportunity to actually represent your views, and we will support this every step of the way.

So, who needs to raise the bar? We all do.

The University need to provide us with a service that is student focused, fit for purpose and accessible. Your Union needs to engage you, ensure that your experience is a key issue on the table at every discussion and lobby to ensure that there’s an effective way for you to be heard. Your College Officers need to be on the ground listening to your views and feeding them back to us and the University. And finally you, our student body. You need to carry on telling us what’s wrong, giving us your feedback and providing exciting ideas for change.

I want the bars to work more than anybody (with perhaps the exception of Jo Hardman… whose job probably rests on their success!) but we all need to work together to effect change. I’m also a true believer in the college system and can’t stress enough how integral it is to our identity as a University. I certainly hope that these new changes, the excitement of Freshers’ Week and an increased amount of student input can help to breathe life back into our campus bars once more!

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