The student consultation period for the second phase of the University’s College Residential Services Business Process Reviews (BPR2) has opened.
The proposals were initially unveiled in an email to all students several weeks ago, and involve major changes to housekeeping and portering procedures across the University.
The student consultation window will close in the last week of Epiphany term. If approved, the proposals will be implemented in August for the start of the 2020/21 academic year.
The student consultation survey was sent to all students on February 28th via the University’s Dialogue Signposts email.
In response to concerns that the student voice will not be considered, Jeremy Cook, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Colleges & Student Experience) told Palatinate: “The proposals for the College Residential Services BPR phase 2 are available for all staff and students to view on the dedicated project web pages.
“We understand the importance of consultation with all stakeholders and encourage all staff and students to have an open dialogue on the proposals and to make suggestions through the relevant channels. Consultation involves actively seeking and taking account of the views of staff and students before making a final decision.”
The University has confirmed that it anticipates redundancies among the housekeeping staff employed by the University, but expects an increase in the number of porters hired. Mr Cook told Palatinate: “Until the consultation process has been concluded, we are unable to confirm the final shape that our revised portering and housekeeping structures will take or what this will mean for individuals.
“We are, however, committed to avoiding compulsory redundancies where at all possible and will be maximising opportunities for internal redeployment.”
JCR and MCR Presidents, as well as Students’ Union Officers, attended a formal consultation meeting with the University last Tuesday, at which further details on the proposals were announced.
Alongside the previously announced proposal that bedrooms will be cleaned on a termly basis, it was revealed at the meeting that bins will also only be emptied by staff once a term. There will also be fortnightly bedroom checks in which students may be fined for not maintaining a clean room.
It was also announced that under the proposals, shift lengths for weekend portering staff will be cut from 12 hours to 8 hours, resulting in significant income reductions.
Commenting on the Palatinate website, one porter wrote: “They are cutting my hours from 24 to 14. I can’t understand how this will save money. At present I work two 12-hour shifts.
“They are proposing three 8-hour shifts, with three porters instead of two, that means triple pensions, and triple holidays. Makes me sick, 14 hours will not cover my rent and council tax.”
Despite the reduction in the amount of cleaning services provided to livers-in, college accommodation costs will not be reduced next year to compensate. A single catered room with shared bathroom will cost £7,894 for the 2020/21 academic year. Mr Cook said: “It is not within the scope of this review to determine any po- tential changes to residency fees.”
A Facebook campaign against the University’s proposals, named ‘Save Our Staff – stop BPR2’, has launched, and has attracted around 200 likes. A post by the campaign’s organisers calls the proposals “an attack on university staff, especially in colleges.
“This is a threat to colleges as we know them and it will affect Durham’s dedicated staff, who have been here longer than any Vice-Chancellor or Provost.”
Harry Cross, who chairs the campaign and is President of St Aidan’s SCR, reflected negatively on last week’s meeting between the University and common room presidents. “The University has ignored the outcome of feedback sessions with students that preceded the formal consultation period, as we sadly feared they would.”
Cross accused the University of deliberately misleading students about the effects of cuts, saying “the university has publicly justified BPR2 based on its benefit to ‘you, the students’. We do not want these changes and the uni- versity must honestly state the real motivations behind BPR2″.
Furthermore, the fact that the University has, according to Cross, framed BPR2 in terms of cleanliness of rooms, which “trivialises the seriousness of BPR2 for the livelihoods of current Durham staff”.
Image: ‘Save Our Staff – Stop BPR2’ Facebook Page
The original version of this article stated that the University had only sent the student consultation to certain colleges. This was not the case, all students were emailed a link to the survey on February 28th.