When I began this article, I intended for it to be a piece criticising the availability of pastoral and academic care for College of Arts and humanities students; I thought the Arts Advising Team and subject administrators were at fault. My three years at the University of Glasgow have been incredible but my experience as an arts student has not always been as rosy. I often felt lost and under-supported. I considered that it might have just been the transition from a small sixth form to one of Scotland’s largest universities, but after speaking to people in other subjects, I realised that the academic careers of arts students weren’t being monitored in the same fashion as that of other subjects. There was unlikely a single faculty member that knew my academic plan or even my name. To the University of Glasgow, I am only my student number.
Some of us are lucky enough to have fantastic support systems of friends and family that regularly check in on our mental health and physical well-being; but not every student has this privilege. Student suicides in the past have gone unnoticed by their educational institutions for weeks. So, I feel it’s important to ask the question: how long would it take before the University of Glasgow recognised that one of its students was in trouble?
I decided to speak to the Arts Advising Team. I want to assure anyone who reads this that the chief advisor for the College of Arts – Costas Panayotakis – is one of the most welcoming staff members I have met at the University. After a brief discussion with him, I realised my blame was entirely misplaced. It is completely unreasonable for any of us to blame the underfunded, undersupported, and undervalued services available at the University, like the advising teams and the SRC. These services provide the best possible support and guidance they can offer. The faults I intend to highlight lie solely within University management.
In the time between starting and finishing this article, the students have protested arms funding, union leaders have resigned, staff have gone on strike, and the University came under fire for failing to inform the student body of a series of ongoing sexual assault cases. Not only has the University put our academic careers at risk but they also put our personal safety in jeopardy. Our campus no longer feels safe and we lost weeks of teaching because staff are still on temporary contracts. There is no longer any faith that the University of Glasgow is acting with their staff and student body in mind.
Why are subjects accepting nearly 500 students onto courses with the assumption that not every student will progress into honours? Why are we not made aware of the extent of the tariff systems between each year? I sought a response from the arts recruitment team but have yet heard nothing. Why are most arts and humanities subjects not monitoring attendance and failing to follow up on missing absence reports? Why are the waiting lists for counselling and psychological services (CAPS) nearly four months long? Why are the College of Arts buildings not properly wheelchair accessible? Some of us are now in our twenties and we understand that our well-being is our responsibility, but as a Scottish university, this university accepts 17-year olds. They are not legally allowed to buy alcohol or vote, but the University expects them to be entirely responsible for their own well-being and academic progress. Whilst it may be the student’s choice to come to university, surely the University still owes a duty of care to its students (and staff)? There are far too many questions and there are not enough answers.
The Arts Advising Team are there to help the College of Arts students and I fully recommend taking advantage of the services that they provide. The chief advisor maintained that whilst arts students do not have named advisors per se, we do have an entire team that are dedicated to solving our academic grievances. A few individuals on the team have also undertaken NHS-led courses for mental-health first aid and the team has a clear network of contacts available to students alongside CAPS. Students are also able to contact any of the Arts Advising Team and from there we will be forwarded to the correct services or they can arrange private appointments to talk face-to-face. There are also plans in place to monitor attendance through Moodle and there are communication streams open between the team and our subject administrators. If you need to contact the Arts Advising Team regarding academic or personal issues they are available Monday to Friday (9am to 4pm) in Room 101, 6 University Gardens for drop-ins, or they are accessible via email: [email protected] Costa Panyotakis had some final words for UofG students: “Be proactive, don’t suffer in silence and reach out.” He insists that himself and the Advising Team are always on hand to help and that it his greatest concern that any student could potentially be suffering. The most valuable service they offer is an ear to listen.
So, after all this, is there anyone to blame? All we can ask is that the University of Glasgow starts to look after the people (staff and students) who chose them as an institution. No-one should be slipping through the cracks.