UEA union council have voted to formally support Nightline following their claims that the service has been compromised after they were forced to move office space.
The listening service’s offices were moved from Suffolk Terrace to floor 02 of the university library in July. According to Nightline, the former Dean of Students office did not take into consideration the views of UEA Security, the union or other relevant bodies when making the decision.
The proposal for the Union to formally commit to supporting “The Provision of a Sufficient Office Space for Nightline” was raised at the first Union council meeting of the year, on Thursday 20th October.
In Nightline’s previous location, volunteers had the resource of a panic button that notified UEA Security when needed. Volunteers no longer have access to such an alarm, and instead must send an email in emergencies. The Union agreed that this change puts the safety of Nightline volunteers at risk.
In the service’s new space, volunteers are now not officially allowed to eat or sleep for the duration of their shift, which last twelve hours.
Joanne Bridgland Nightline’s External Coordinator and Joe Carr Nightline’s Internal Coordinator added, “we are expected to have the space completely vacated by 8am which consequently eats in to our service hours and we no longer have a space to hold confidential meetings and training for our volunteers.”
The Union noted “interest from 74 potential new volunteers this semester” and said that it is clear the society requires an office “that can suitably meet the expectations of our service and cater to the wellbeing of our volunteers.”
Nightline report receiving almost 900 contacts with students in the 2015-2016 academic year. 47 per cent of these were through phone calls, a service unavailable for almost two weeks owing to a failure to implement phone lines in time for the new term.
Student ‘drop-ins’ to the Suffolk Terrace office made up 12 percent of these contacts. Currently Nightline is not able to invite students into their office during their operational hours of 8pm-8am owing to library security, library staff and cleaning staff being able to enter, compromising student confidentiality.
The motion approved by the union also stated that Nightline has spent “almost ¼ of their annual budget on equipping the new space for volunteers and on new promotional material, as all existing advertising was made redundant by forced changes and no provisions were provided to us by the library for storage of Nightline materials.”
Union council stated: “The Union and the University have a moral obligation to guarantee an effective, exclusive, and confidential space for Nightline.” The Union has resolved with the new Student Support Services to find or create an adequate space for Nightline for the rest of the academic year. Nightline have said that this move has given them hope “that our situation will soon improve.”
Bridgland and Carr further said, “we feel that although we are continuing to provide the best service we can to contacts, the welfare of the volunteers whilst on shift has been compromised by our inability to cater to their basic needs.”
Speaking on behalf of the University of East Anglia, Doctor Jon Sharp, Director of Student Services, said: “the University recognises the valuable contribution that Nightline makes to the well-being of the student community and continues to be committed to providing space on campus for the Nightline team to carry out their work.
He continued: “our new Head of Well Being, Jane Lawrence, and myself as Director of Student Services are working closely with the Nightline team on the issue of accommodation. There was an issue regarding the accessibility of kitchen space and sleeping provision and this is being addressed.
Finally, he said: “we are also in discussion with other colleagues around the University with a view to identifying an appropriately structured space that can serve as a permanent home for the team.”
A second year volunteer for the service told Concrete that: “Nightline has become a very important service to students at UEA. To continue providing the best listening service we should have the rights we previously had, including being able to rest and eat during our long 12 hour shifts.”