Focus groups

Students tell us their thoughts on Union staff diversity

The Union held focus groups and interviews in the summer term to find out student's thoughts about the levels of staff diversity at the Union. 

A total of twelve students took part in the research, which involved three tasks created to observe the importance BAME students place on representation within the Union’s body of employees, as determined by:

• Their previous interactions with Union employees, if applicable.

• An exercise intended to assess participants’ expectations of the “desired” interaction.

Below is the feedback the Union received about departments and our overall service to students.

Feedback about departments

Student Voice

  • Surveys should be presented in several languages, to ensure that those (new) international students who do not have an in-depth understanding of the particularities of the language, feel comfortable in responding to surveys (whilst also ensuring that they do not misinterpret the content of the questions).
  • There should be an online platform dedicated to international students.
  • Full time staff to have more contact with students as they appear more “responsible” than student staff, who are often the only Union representatives to engage with the student population.

Activities

  • Demonstrate more cultural awareness by moving away from the alcohol culture associated with clubs and societies. Provide a more “balanced type of social interaction”, including a variety of events that also appeal to individuals who choose not to drink because of their culture, beliefs, or faith.

Advice

  • More cultural diversity within the Advice Service is needed as “mental health in different communities is received differently” and there is a “need to have people that can relate and empathise to mental health problems and experiences in your culture”.
  • Identified need for diversity in terms of sexual orientation – LGBTQ+ individuals have different needs.

Sabbatical Officers

  • Continue encouraging the participation of diverse students in the Student Elections.

Overall feedback

  • The absence of BAME staff is an issue of “culture”, rather than active discrimination
  • The Union "should get involved" with the UoP International Office when organising events for international students. However, BAME students should be asked what events are relevant for them, rather than have events intended for BAME students that are largely based on the basis of a white individual’s interpretation of what is needed/desired.
  • There is a need for the Union and the University to make efforts towards marketing academia to students, and particularly to international students, in an empowering way, to encourage a more diverse population of teaching staff in the future. This will help to ensure that teaching staff are more representative of the diverse student population (rather than White male dominated).
  • The Union needs to communicate more effectively, for example: information campaigns about the Union (how it works and what it does) and the use of videos, instead of flyers, when increasing awareness of the Union.
  • The rate of applicants for Union jobs can be increased through placing more effort into marketing them to the student community. It’s important for the Union to bear in mind that job titles can often be misinterpreted.

If you have any further questions about this research or would like access to the full findings, please contact insights@upsu.net.


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