The University of South Australia will be staging what it calls a ‘Unijam’: an open discussion for all members of its community – including students, staff or alumni - to attend to have their opinions heard on matters relating to the running of the institution.
Utilising sophisticated technology developed by IBM to collect and organise prevalent opinions, it is hoped that the two day festival-like event (29-30 May) will see themes and topics which the community care be addressed going forward. Invitations to other notable figures, including the country’s top academics, have been made.
The university’s vice-chancellor David Lloyd shook off the suggestion of unpredictable or embarrassing results; instead Lloyd preferred to promote the fact that those who might not normally feel inclined to contribute ideas on the running of the university can do so in a way that they feel comfortable (e.g. via social media or in an informal setting). The university’s relationships and reach abroad will be one topic on the agenda; how important it is to those who matter is another question, which will be answered during the Unijam.
So, is such an event a brilliant outside-the-box way of encouraging students to contribute to the running of their university? Or is it just a publicity stunt which is destined to go wrong?
Your university doesn’t have to stage their own event so your voice is heard. Here are three ways you can let your university know how you feel:
University social media
Every university has their own Twitter or Facebook account. For the most part they are very active on them, posting news and developments from around campus each day. We recommend following them, and responding to what they post. University communities are so large and diverse, that it can be hard to find those factors which bond the majority; social media sites can be that bond. Start a conversation with those you wouldn’t normally interact with through your social groups, accommodation or course. When you reply to a comment, tag the person who made it, so they see it and can reply back. But most of all, be civil and respectful!
Speak to tutors
Tutors can be a bit intimidating in the way they conduct themselves and appear to be so worldly and intelligent. So much so, students can feel awkward and unable to express themselves properly (some don’t want to even think about their tutor or professor until the next week’s lecture). Establish a dialogue with them. While they are incredibly busy, bring concerns you have to them, perhaps in their office hours. If you have someone within the faculty or a non-student fighting for you, you’ll be surprised how much further your argument will go.
Go beyond your campus
Don’t get caught up in just what happens on your own campus. Being so large, it can feel like the centre of the universe; but chances are there are most likely other students in universities around the country/world with exactly the same queries, feelings and opinions as you. Use social media, forums and societies (like The Student Room) to reach out to those in different locations. Start with other universities in the city/region, and build on that.