Joshua Gumbley is making a bid to be Director of Representation after having previously served as a class representative and senior student of McIntosh Hall, working closely with student services.
Mr Gumbley’s manifesto states that he believes the University must “adopt a new attitude towards education and mental wellbeing.” He says that study space must be a priority and that the University must “re-evaluate” the spaces available in school departments and “commit to an actual plan for a library extension,” yet he gives no suggestions or proposals as to how the university should achieve these goals.
Mr Gumbley also seems to use his manifesto to evoke romantic notions of the University’s building once being “the places where budding scholars meet to discuss their ideas and guide each other.” Indeed Mr Gumbley paints a depressing picture of the University’s schools as “office blocks” and the places of study within them as being “haunted solely by staff” rather than a “vibrant community of scholars.” He says that this deterioration in the quality of education is due to the University increasing the number of students over the last decade and wants to “fight to keep classes sizes as they are.” However, the only concrete proposal Mr Gumbley suggests to achieve his nostalgic vision is to pressure the University to increase study spaces in both the schools and University library.
In order to preserve the educational standard at the University, Mr Gumbley wants to “reassess the way modules are run.” He wants to increase the amount of feedback students receive from exams, making it closer to the amount that students receive on their coursework. Indeed if successful, this proposal could help students improve their work exponentially.
Mr Gumbley also wishes to publish module handbooks and reading lists earlier so as to help students prepare more thoroughly. This could be a major help to students, giving them longer to prepare for the semester ahead.
He also proposes a voluntary feedback initiative. This would allow students to be assessed on any additional work they produce that would not affect their final grade, helping to refine skills. Although a good proposal in theory, The Saint worries about the logistics of such a measure. Who will do this extra marking? How much will each student be entitled to? Furthermore, most students will not have time to produce additional coursework and so this policy may become redundant.
Mr Gumbley also proposes to make changes to the system of academic advisors, saying that “many advisors act as an administrative staff member rather than one who gives advice.” He says that advisors should engage more with students and their degrees and that the University should have a “unified guidance scheme for every student.” Again, while these proposals would certainly help students in theory, Mr Gumbley gives no indication of how he will achieve them apart from saying he will “work closely with the Rector and the Rector’s Committee and assessor.”
He also says that those making decisions about the University should have better experience of it, asking “when was the last time someone from College Gate sat in on an undergraduate tutorial?” While The Saint agrees this is a reasonable point, Mr Gumbley gives no plans of how to solve the problem.
Mr Gumbley believes that the University “has a serious problem with the way that it deals with mental health and mental wellbeing.” As part of plans to fix this, he proposes that the University should “contract a full-time mental health professional with real authority to ensure that our mental well being is a fundamental priority.” While this sounds like a good solution, The Saint asks just how much can one professional achieve? And if Mr Gumbley wishes to contract more, where will the money come from?
Mr Gumbley also expresses anger and disappointment at how the University deals with students suffering from mental health problems, arguing they should be allowed more reassessments and leniency when it comes to examinations. He also notes that he would work to change the attitudes of individual schools towards mental health in order to make those in authority more sympathetic and understanding. These proposals are sensible and will help to tackle the stigma surrounding mental health problems.
He also ties this in with his proposal to increase study spaces, saying that students are being forced to study more at home and that “studies have shown that the blending of work and living spaces is detrimental to our mental health.” Therefore, he says, the number of study spaces should be increased; however he again gives no proposals on how to achieve this.
If elected, Mr Gumbley proposes to devote much of his time to supporting the LGBT, wellbeing, equal opportunities and employability officers, as well as their sub committees, and give the students involved the resources and support needed. This is a reasonable proposal and will help some of the most vulnerable members of our University.
The Saint’s Assessment
Mr Gumbley is obviously passionate about the position of Director of Representation and has many ideas about how to improve University life. These include expanding study spaces, restoring what he sees as a lost sense of educational community, changing the systems of feedback and advising and reforming the way we deal with mental health as a University.
While many of these are engaging and intelligent proposals which could help solve many problems for students, what Mr Gumbley lacks is any ideas of how these plans would be implemented – apart from working with the Rector and pressuring the University.