Editorial: Labour Students, Support Networks and Safe Nights Out

Labour Students disassociation has grounds for justification

Before their annual conference, Labour has chosen to disaffiliate their student branch, Labour Students (LS). In a motion from Jon Lansman, a founding member of pro-Corbyn group ‘Momentum’, LS was accused of failing to pay affiliate payments and disclose political rules to Labour’s National Executive Committee. LS has rejected accusations, with Chairwoman Rania Ramil stating they paid all fees in July.

The movement has proved controversial, with some labelling it politically motivated. Former LS national secretary Luke Akehurst proposes “Momentum wants to destroy moderate” groups and re-establish a more “left-leaning” student body. Lansman disagreed, claiming it was administrative and because LS were failing students. Lansman’s observations are not baseless. Since February, students across the UK have rejected LS. Labour groups at Oxford, LSE and Kent have all withdrawn. Kent Labour Students (KLS) Chairman, Dimitri Andreou, noted that KLS “never felt” their existence relied upon LS and therefore disaffiliated in March. These views are shared by Swansea Labour Students President Michael Bawden who told the Tab that LS were an “undemocratic clique…out of step with actual students”. Despite LS dissatisfaction, Labour maintains a large student following and should not underappreciate this support. Students formed the backbone of Labour’s 2017 boom, especially in Canterbury where 8,000 student voters helped Labour MP Rosie Duffield win. Jess Phillips, who also won with student aid in Yardley in 2015, concluded students were “work horses” and their removal is an insult. LS requires reform and the opportunity to do so with student aid has been eradicated. With the Brexit deadline and a potential election looming, student participation could have been rallied from the isolated students spread across UK. It could have drawn students directly into political engagement like in 2017. Instead, Labour has chosen to remove their failing student wing and aims to build another, without any plans or student involvement at time when both are crucial.

Make yourself aware of support networks at Kent

Getting to university is a huge task in itself. First you have the UCAS application, then your exams and results to see if you have actually made it, once you have got into a university then you have to think about moving in, meeting new housemates and making new friends. You then realise after all this hassle you actually have to get the degree you first applied for. Not the easiest of moves. Remembering to bring kitchen utensils and trying to work out the map of campus is enough to tire anyone, but what students often forget to think about is something right inside your own head: mental health. YouGov recently reported that one in four students experience mental health problems at university. Whether essays and assignments are putting pressure on students, it is clear that students are likely to struggle. Cultural shock, loneliness, financial worries or home problems can all be solved and supported by these services right here on campus. What may be more comforting, though, is knowing which services are on campus and where to find them. Here at Kent, we have a surprising wealth of support to choose from. Everything from the Wellbeing Centre (located in Keynes) and University Medical Centre (between Park Wood and Turing), to the nursing services (Keynes) and Student Learning Advisory Service (behind Grimond) help to keep the student life a little less stressful than it needs to be. Students can also use the help of college masters to point them in the right direction for assistance – these masters deal with everything from sexual assault to housing issues and can write confidential reports for evidence in more critical matters. It is helpful to know the extra options these services give you too. Take a note that the Wellbeing Centre does a crisis drop-in clinic from 2pm-4pm every weekday and that the nursing services are open at all hours of the day free of charge. The Student Learning Advisory Service offers one to one appointments on study skills and written communication, as well as workshops to choose from, whereas the Medical Centre offers a range of medical clinics for all students from mental health therapies to sexual health services. Whether you use all of these services (or none) just making yourself aware of what is around gives a comforting start to university life. In a year where the Office for National Statistics published that the number of student suicides has doubled in twelve years, it is helpful to know that the University of Kent is offering these services to assist us on campus. Help is always around, and these services are here for all and every worry or concern. Signing up to the UMC after a severe case of the fresher’s flu might seem an obvious necessity, but as a student it is worth familiarising yourself with when and where they are because you never know when yourself (or a friend) might need it.[JV1]

Have a safe night out

Coming to Kent is an exciting, memorable experience, but it can also be daunting. While it is easy to get caught up in the fun of Freshers, it is important to stay level-headed. We want to offer guidance on how to make the most of your experience. In recent years, there has been stories detailing sexual assaults on campus and in Canterbury, in particular the University Road victim from several years back which we interviewed for our This Girl Can special edition back in 2018. Not only that, but rumours continue to surface of wrongdoings occurring on Eliot footpath and in Hales Place. Shockingly, one in four students have suffered unwelcome sexual advances during their studies, with these findings not just common at UKC but also across other higher education institutions. The University, Kent Union and local government has the biggest responsibly in solving the wider issue at hand, but as students we are able to find ways to help ourselves. Sticking together and staying in numbers, drinking in moderation and making plans are just some of the many ways to look after yourself in the dark. We would also recommend looking at the services which the University and the Union offer – like the SafeZone app and Nightline – or promote like the Student Safe Taxi Scheme which allows you to order a ride home without worrying about payment straight away. There is no need to go to the university worried and scared, and you will no doubt have a great time, but do not let your degree be ruined by something that could have been easily prevented. Look after yourself and others and have the best nights out.