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Living writer Grace Kendrick emphasises the importance of senior residents.

The shock of the universities decision to remove Deputy Wardens and many Senior Resident roles from halls of residence across Bristol University has become a hugely debated topic across campus.
Whilst this article doesn’t wish to contribute to these debates, the importance of this pastoral care in the heart of student life can’t be stressed enough, considering the rising need for mental health provisions and a focus on wellbeing at the University.

“The importance of this pastoral care in the heart of student life can’t be stressed enough.”

But it’s more than that. As a Senior Resident myself, I see the daily activity and significance of this residential team in action, and it’s a vital part of creating a positive student experience for undergraduates during their transition to University education.
Therefore, if you ever wondered exactly what we get up to as Senior Residents, I thought I’d give a little insight into the daily practices and routines we commit to during our time in Halls.
Firstly there is our monthly duty. For me, this requires being on-call duty for all residents. Equipped with the sturdy (no smart phone in sight) duty phone, I spend either a weekend daytime or weekday night shift answering calls from students. By being on-call we locate ourselves within the University Hall throughout our time on duty, so we can attend any problems that arise throughout this time. This could be anything from a lock out of your room (we’ve all been there) or an electrical fault in a flat.

We act as an intermediator between students and the services which can get problems solved. In addition, we ensure the safety of students whilst on duty. This means locking up rooms after use and conducting evening routine checks around halls to check all is in order. As an undergraduate, it made me feel comforted to know there was a team of staff who were always present and keeping a watchful eye – especially when my own eyes were potentially infected by a rather indulgent amount of alcohol.

“As an undergraduate, it made me feel comforted to know there was a team of staff who were always present and keeping a watchful eye.”

Pastoral care is probably the most important aspect of Senior Resident and Deputy Wardens role. Beginning my education at University as an undergraduate was probably one of the most terrifying things I ever did. I had never left home before, never lived in a big city and I had grown up with the same group of friends since I was a child.

From the first day of moving in, I felt anxious about making friends, scared of the rumours of life in Hall’s and in desperate need of guidance. Senior residents and Deputy Wardens are there from the very start – helping you to move into the Halls, watching over those first burnt toast moments, on hand when someone drinks a bit too much at your flat pre-drinks and conduct flat meetings to outline the key roles of students in keeping the Halls safe, tidy and clean.

We check up on students who might have additional needs, to make sure they feel happy within their new home and have first aid training to deal with those kitchen dramas that affect us all during our first experience of cooking.

Goldney Hall / University of Bristol

In addition, having a great team of Senior Residents and Deputy Wardens in each Hall is key to ensuring good pastoral care – particularly at the heart of student living. This network allows students to feel well supported with any issues that arise throughout the year – and trust me, there’s always something. In addition, we help international students to adjust to student living in the UK, by advising on any practical issues students may be facing in addition to the fact that many SR’s stay in hall’s over the Christmas period to provide on-going support for students who are unable to return home during the University holidays.

“I have been continually grateful for the dedication and guidance of the on-call Deputy Wardens.”

As a Senior Resident, I also need support and have been continually grateful for the dedication and guidance of the on-call Deputy Wardens who help us to conduct our duties. This guidance is key to our success at ensuring a positive and safe environment in Halls, as their experience and knowledge helps us to perform our duties to the best of our ability, especially at times when this may exceed what we may be able to manage on our own.

Most importantly for me, Senior Residents and Deputy Wardens help create a sense of community. We are actively involved in the halls social events, joining in Drama and Musical opportunities and encouraging students to take part! I know from my experience that students in my halls feel encouraged by the community of Senior Residents.

An important part of student wellbeing is finding a time to get involved in extracurricular activities and spend time with friends socialising. This facilitating role is key to such benefits. It has been very rewarding seeing so many of my students getting involved in drama opportunities or volunteering to be part of the JCR – not to mention their very competitive edge in the Hall bake-off challenge. By taking part in activities and encouraging others to do so, we help students to become more confident in themselves throughout their year.

So that was a little insight into our daily routines. Next time you spot me running around with an ancient Nokia in hand – then you’ll know it’s the daily routine of a Senior Resident helping to restore order within the Halls. Whilst our future in uncertain, we will continue to help fulfil our vital role within Halls.

Featured image: Richmond Terrace / University of Bristol

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