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Merger in My Eyes: Challenges and Benefits

Merger in My Eyes: Challenges and Benefits

Cytherea Shen, GSA's Vice President Academic, talks through her feelings about the upcoming merger...

17th June 2024


When I first heard about the merger of the University of York Students' Union (鶹¾) and the Graduate Students' Association (GSA), it was a bit of a concern for me. As a former postgraduate student and an international student, I knew that postgraduate and international students are a group of people who need extra support. Frankly speaking, I was really worried that there would be less attention to postgraduate students and how the University could ensure that their rights and interests would be better protected. I also learnt from students and some teachers that they actually shared the same concern that due to the different academic needs and issues faced by undergraduate and postgraduate students, there would be less attention and assistance after the merger. Being a postgraduate student is already hard enough, and the GSA gives fantastic support!  

 

Admittedly, in the dynamic environment of higher education, the decision to merge the students' unions marks a pivotal moment in the collective journey of student representation and community building at the University of York. It marks a significant new milestone for the University. The merger of the York University Students' Union (鶹¾) and the Graduate Students' Association (GSA) is a strategic move to redefine the student experience, promote inclusivity and consolidate resources to enhance services. In this article, I want to delve deeper into the motivations, anticipated changes, and factors that must be considered in this article transformative alliance. 

 

Throughout the process of the merger of GSA and 鶹¾, we held a number of board meetings, council meetings and committee meetings to discuss some of the changes, including the adoption of various decisions around the structure and composition of the new union. This process has been positive and constructive, but also sometimes felt tough and involved compromise.

 

For example, for me, one of the most difficult decisions as part of this process was around what the new sabbatical officer roles ought to be. There were mixed views on this, but I strongly felt that we ought to have a specific postgraduate or international sabbatical officer role. Although I was given space to share my view, ultimately the majority of GSA and 鶹¾ board of trustees agreed that all officers would have collective responsibility for postgraduate students, and therefore that a specific international or postgraduate sabbatical officer role wasn’t needed as part of the team.

 

In addition, after nearly a year as Vice President Academic of GSA, I believe other important changes must be made in the details of how the merged institution protects the rights of students. In terms of full student engagement, collaboration with different societies could be strengthened to increase student participation, given the diversity of the student body and the unique needs of every individual. Furthermore, master’s students who are only at York for one year, need support and encouragement to become more involved in our University. We also need to think about postgraduate students who may need University accommodation due to the high cost of housing in York. We hope that the merged student union will protect the interests of all students.

 

In conclusion, the merger of 鶹¾ with GSA marks a transformative step towards a more cohesive, inclusive and vibrant campus community. By embracing diversity, amplifying student voices and fostering a culture of collaboration, the merged union will set a new course for student representation and engagement. It is important that the principles of inclusion, equality and student-centredness are upheld during the merger process to ensure that everyone's voice is heard and valued in the collective pursuit of a shared vision. I also hope that if any of you have a concern or feel that services need to be strengthened, you will speak up and raise the issue with the University.

 

There is a limit to how far one person can go, but a united group of people with collective strength and abilities can accomplish far more. We all saw the impact of everyone's efforts in the recent elections. To all the candidates, you gave your best! Congratulations also to each newly elected officer. You are all remarkable individuals, and we look forward to you leading the university's next chapter.