Scotland is set to see significant easing of COVID-19 restrictions from Monday, 17 May, when most of the mainland moves to Level 2. In her address on Tuesday 11 May, the First Minister announced an acceleration of previous plans, with the number of people and households that can meet inside homes in Level 2 increasing to six people from three households.
This welcome news will also enable people to hug their loved ones, return to venues including cinemas and theatres, and importantly, will offer universities and colleges more flexibility to resume in-person teaching. However, please remember that Working From Home is still the default position for the vast majority of Strathclyde staff. We are awaiting the detailed guidance for the higher education sector and we will issue further information and advice when we receive it.
This week, I wanted to share with you my reflections on the recent ‘bystander and first responder’ training session I attended with our Executive Team. This is a course that will shortly be rolled out to colleagues across the University to empower staff to recognise and deal with inappropriate behaviours, wherever they may occur.
As a socially progressive university, we are determined to ensure that everyone feels safe and respected on campus. However, words are not enough – we each need to take responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of others.
Gender-based violence is present in every area of society, and universities are not immune to it. We need to work together to ensure our supportive environment is in place across Strathclyde, and that everyone is treated equally and with respect.
The course was followed by a powerful and well engaged session at Leadership Group looking at the wide range of work happening in this space, including: building on our Report and Support tool; enhancing our support and specialist services; creating a First Responder Network; furthering our policies; and, providing training for staff and students.
There is a huge amount of work underway. I am proud of the Strathclyde community, and that we have opened the conversation. If you have the opportunity to undertake the training, I would urge you to take the time to do so, as the Executive Team has done. We will be talking to you more about our work in this area - under the banner of Safe360°- in the weeks and months ahead.
Meanwhile, with the terrific news that our new Learning and Teaching building has now been handed over to the University from the contractor, we are in the final stages of realising our flagship Learning and Teaching Building in the heart of campus. This gives us a great opportunity to reflect our Values and introduce more diverse and inclusive naming of the building.
At Strathclyde, there are no buildings on our campus named after women or, indeed, that reflect the fantastic diversity of our University community. We will now take steps to remedy that. Next week, we will launch a consultation on naming the two wings of the building after inspirational women.
Recently, I convened a group of students and staff to bring forward names of proposed candidates and agree a shortlist. Next week we will share that list with staff and students, in order to select those we seek to honour. This is just the first step towards making our campus more reflective of the entire Strathclyde community. Please look out for the invitation to participate in your inbox next week.
On Tuesday this week, we had a highly successful Court meeting – which included an open session available for staff, students and external stakeholders as part of our Engage with Strathclyde events programme.
As part of a full day, members had a very productive session discussing the on-going work of our Strathclyde Acceleration Teams. With a focus on the delivery of Vision 2025, these Teams have been taking forward the outputs and recommendations of the Visioning Groups which we established in Spring of last year, to help identify new opportunities after the initial Covid outbreak.
As a reminder, the groups have been focusing on: Learner Journey; Research and Innovation Districts; Values and Culture; Global Context and Distinctiveness; and, Financial Sustainability & Optimal Diversification.
Court members made a valued contribution to the progress of the groups, helping to identify areas of focus and priority and have supported us in the ‘mainstreaming’ of the key actions. The outputs will be a key step on our journey towards delivery of Vision 2025.
Finally, you may be aware that this is the national week for Mental Health Awareness - an area that has been an important focus for our University community during the pandemic. Run by the Mental Health Foundation with the theme of Nature, the week runs until Sunday 16 May and offers resources, tips and blogs around looking after our mental wellbeing, in addition to our own Wellbeing & Working From Home Hub.
We all work best when we have had a break and are well-rested, and if you haven’t already booked your summer annual leave, I’d strongly encourage you to do so in order to ‘recharge your batteries’ and take the essential time for yourself, family and friends.
Similarly, please do bear in mind that meeting-free Fridays are now in place across the University, and wherever possible, we ask you to avoid scheduling meetings on these days to allow colleagues the space to complete work before the weekend, and plan for the week ahead.
Please enjoy your weekend, and Eid Mubarak to all our colleagues who are celebrating.