Do not rid us of our Wardens, Deputy Wardens and Senior Residents

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Leonardo De Rezende, founder of the petition against the proposed changes to student services in University of Bristol Halls of Residence, urges that the university appreciate, respect and act upon the vital role that Wardens, Deputy Wardens and Senior Residents perform.

I do not disagree with the university executive that there needs to be reform to the pastoral support offered to students. The mental health issues and suicide rate facing the university is of paramount importance and very upsetting. The issue that I take with the proposed change is that they will not solve these issues.

Yes, students do have to be provided with mental health support from professionals and the university does have to allocate more funding to this. However, the complete removal of the current system of Wardens, deputy Wardens and Student Support Administrators, as well as the huge cutback to Senior Residents in Halls of residence which span over 80 years of history will not improve the mental health of students.

Related article: University to remove wardens from halls in place of new hub system

Firstly, the Vice-Chancellor has appointed a man that seems to misunderstand, or ignore, the role played by SRs and Wardens and why students apply to live in Halls in Stoke Bishop and Clifton. SRs offer an invaluable informal type of support. Students are provided with a great deal of security in the knowledge that they have someone of a similar age, who have had similar experiences, and is willing to listen to them and provide support.

Senior Residents play a central role in creating a community within Halls
Of course, SRs are not, and should not, be the only people who students can turn to. Some issues can spiral into something so serious that it will need the attention of mental health professionals. But SRs are a vital for informal, ad-hoc, and discreet support. They are people who we know, who we live with, and we can have a personal relationship with. Professionals, with all respect to them, can seem distinct and removed as opposed to our SRs.

Indeed, our SRs play a central role in creating a community within Halls. One of the great benefits of living in Stoke Bishop or Clifton is that students can benefit from hall-run societies which range from debating, drama, and music. The JCRs are important in running these, but the people who really get them going and mobilise students are SRs - without them these societies would be unworkable.

These societies do two very important things; they provide halls with individuality, character, and history - Wills is home to Barney’s debating society, one of the University’s oldest societies. They also further that sense of community within halls, allowing students from different floors and blocks to meet and befriend each other. Without these, students would lose fantastic opportunities and not benefit from this sense of community which is practically non-existent in the City Centre style of living.

Notions that the warden system is out of date are utter nonsense
Our Wardens and deputy Wardens are also crucial to the character of individual Halls of residence. Each Warden allows the character and individuality of each Hall not only to continue, but also to develop and improve. Their role and sheer presence as a form of stability and responsibility brings halls into order and fosters that treasured individualism of each hall.

Notions that the Warden system is out of date are utter nonsense. Change for the sake of change benefits no one. These men and women have devoted large parts of their lives to ensuring that students experience a holistic and collegiate time in Halls. If Wardens are lost so will be the history and character of halls - over 80 years of history and tradition which helps set Bristol apart.

Senior Residents are people who we know, who we live with, and we can have a personal relationship with
The university seem to have misunderstood why students apply to Bristol and to Halls in Clifton and Stoke Bishop. We choose these halls over “Unite style” accommodation for a feeling of collegiality, to meet people from across hall easily and gregariously, and to live your first year at university - and away from home - in a community. What nobody wants is a kind of B&B, apartment building, or a place run like a hospitality business.

If these changes are put into action, Bristol’s competing universities will warmly welcome our prospective students. Those who are looking for the style of living I have described above will flock to places like Durham - the current Halls of Residence system is without a doubt one of the biggest attractions of the university. Comparing our residence system to Reading or Sheffield is wrong - we are not that kind of university and don’t want to be. Bristol needs to maintain its individuality.

The university executive must, therefore, be open to beginning a real dialogue with students and halls about the change that is necessary and wanted. What was called a consultation was, in reality, a fait accompli. A real consultation that is open, welcomes discourse, and challenges propositions is the only way to resolve the pastoral issues faced by the university. We must not gut the Halls of residence of their history, traditions, and character. Rather than benefiting students, this will cause them a great detriment and must be stopped.

Featured Image : Bristol Accomodation Office


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