The Positive Pandemic: bringing students together

4 May 2020
Positive Pandemic web banner

With University of Winchester students now spread far and wide while the University is closed and the country is in lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, Winchester Student Union (WSU) have launched a clever and creative initiative to bring people together. In this blog post, WSU elected officers Megan Ball (President), Victoria Hurley (VP Education and Welfare) and Ellen O'Dwyer (VP Activities) explain what the Positive Pandemic is all about.

We at Winchester Student Union decided to create a positive, virtual community for students to join during the coronavirus pandemic. It was clear that there was a lot of anxiety, sadness, and negativity all over the news and within our communities due to the impact of the virus. We wanted to combat this negativity and spread some positivity among students.

The Positive Pandemic is a Facebook page run by us (Megan, Victoria, and Ellen). Any student at Winchester can request to join and post on the page! There have been regular posts since the Universities closure - we aim for a post a day or at least 3-5 a week.

As mentioned, with the news breaking of isolation, lockdown, and university closure, so many of our students were understandably gutted and heart-broken that their year (the final year for lots) had been unexpectedly cut short and so many celebrations and events had been cancelled.

The aim of the page is to spread and share positive stories, tips, activities, and ideas for students to use and enjoy while isolating and studying from home. Winchester Student Union has such a supportive and friendly community with so many fun activities and services - we wanted to replicate that as best as we could virtually.

So far, we and students have posted cooking live shows, well-being tips, Netflix parties, baking ideas, photography and fitness challenges and so much more! All you need to do to get involved is search 'Winchester SU Positive Pandemic' on Facebook, visit any Winchester Student Union social media channel, or search for the page on the Intranet where it will be linked.

As well as offering activities on The Positive Pandemic, and keeping students informed on our social media platforms, our Advice Centre has been working remotely throughout. The Student Union Advice Centre offers free, impartial advice on Academic, Wellbeing, Housing & Money concerns, and is completely independent from the University. Our Student Advisor is working from home and is available for online meetings, phone calls and email conversations to offer advice on the areas stated above. For most of us, these areas of student and personal life have been heightened by COVID-19 and we are constantly trying to figure ways to reach out to our members and students to produce easily accessible advice.

Concerning academic advice, we can offer support around academic appeals, complaints and extenuating circumstances - areas that we understand are likely a huge issue currently, so we are available for students when they need us. With wellbeing issues, although our Student Advisor or we as Sabbatical Officers are not councillors; we can offer advice and useful tips to improve wellbeing in general and in this pandemic. We also work very closely with Student Services and key help points within the University, so if you need any information and don't know where to go, you can contact us. We would advise students to come and talk to us about any issues they are having, and if we cannot solve or help with these issues, we can assist and signpost students to other services that can.

You can access information on The Positive Pandemic Facebook page, our Winchester Student Union social media platforms, our Sabbatical social media accounts, and through the Advice Centre (found through our website!).

Even though we launched the Positive Pandemic as an online community, it has proved a great way to signpost students to all the other support networks, such as the Advice Centre, that the Student Union can offer to them.

The Student Union's main aim is to empower students to make the most of every opportunity that they possibly can whilst they are at Winchester, whilst ensuring that they are given the tools and support that they need to flourish.

Now, more than ever, the Student Union's network to champion and support students has been invaluable. We have assisted students with their worries for what a post-pandemic University experience will look like, covering academic support, extensions guidance, on-campus housing queries, wellbeing advice, support, and working with the University's senior management with lobbying private landlords, to name a few.

We have also offered help to students who wish to raise their concerns to a higher level, through petitions and open letters to both local and national government. We assisted students who wanted a No Detriment Policy; ensuring that their academic ability was not negatively impacted by the current global situation. We also assisted students who wanted a rent freeze in University accommodation, and now in private rented houses and flats.

By elevating student concerns and needs to a higher level, we as Sabbatical Officers ensure we - the Student Union & the University - get them exactly what they need to succeed!

Winchester Student Union is a not-for-profit charity, representing and championing over 8,000 students at University of Winchester. As well as running the Advice Centre, they also support activity groups such as sports teams and societies, run representational and liberations student groups, run the academic representatives scheme, run events, bars and shops, and ensure that the student voice is heard throughout University meetings and committees. You can find out more at www.winchesterstudents.co.uk, or through FacebookTwitter or Instagram.

Pictured above (left to right): Victoria, Ellen and Megan.

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