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Planning safe student group activities

Following the two-week freeze on activity across campus, we appreciate the patience and ingenuity shown by all our groups and have enjoyed working successfully with Experience Durham to deliver another brilliant Fresher’s Fair, which saw over 16,000 student group sign-ups.

With over 230 student groups currently operating within our umbrella, Durham SU exists to champion diversity and we embrace the full spectrum of activity within our organisation, from hummus appreciation to career development. Above all else, I do not want to underestimate the detrimental impact which loneliness and isolation during the darkest months of the year will have upon our students. It is with this in mind that I am supporting a return of face-to-face activity, where it can be done safely and where it is worth the effort, so that we can have maximum quality interactions and new friendships between students with minimum harm caused. We must do this in line with the government guidelines and we must be proactive in minimising risk – student safety is paramount.

We all exist within the same community and we must all work together to keep that community safe. Much of this plan relies heavily upon the conduct of our entire community. We cannot treat our various organisations of colleges, Experience Durham, Durham SU associations and societies, or the wider residency of Durham as wholly separate when they are made up of an intersecting pool of students. If any one of these organisations creates unsafe environments which causes a further spread of disease, all our activities will be jeopardised – and that’s not to dismiss the random nature of transmission which we essentially cannot predict. We are therefore working closely with Experience Durham, the University and the colleges to ensure there is consistency across the board.

PHASE ONE - a return of our organised active fitness groups

From 12 October, Durham SU has worked with Experience Durham to devise a list of legal and safe activities which can viably begin operating. These groups will be invited to nominate a Covid Safety Officer (to receive online training) and submit a risk assessment which will include details of how they are ensuring their group operates mindfully of Covid. Where we are confident they have correctly addressed the risks, we will begin a trial period in which each approved active group will be given one hour room-booking slot from the week commencing 12 October. We would treat this as a trial period, where groups would be encouraged to identify risks and make changes to ensure they operate as safely as possible, before being allowed to increase the frequency of their activities. All non-active groups would be asked to remain operating online, although some may be granted permission to meet under close management if it is essential for their group’s objectives.

PHASE TWO – a return of some activities which are not active but rely on face to face

Art workshops and media groups will be supported to begin operating from 26 October where possible, with the same risk assessment, Covid Safety Officer and trial period as in Phase One. We will then be looking to increase the scope of groups which can operate from 2 November. At this stage, we will be asking all our groups whose regular core activities rely exclusively upon face-to-face interaction to submit their risk assessments for any activities they would wish to run and believe to be safe. Many of these will still be impossible at this stage, but we will have a clearer picture at this point and will be able to review our student group activity.

PHASE THREE – considering whether any specific events can be allowed

If transmission rates and infection rates are low enough and we have not had to reverse either of the previous stages, the final proposed phase will commence from the 23 November. In this phase, student groups which are willing to plan one-off in-person events or trips could potentially operate. At this point, we would work with DUCK and other groups that function primarily for one-off events. We would also ask groups to understand that any event might have to be cancelled, but with significant planning and a reactive approach, and dependent upon the success of our previous stages, student groups could have one event, in line with the government regulations, this term.

If you have any questions about your groups, our Opportunities Team are available to help at dsu.engagament@durham.ac.uk. With the team being affected by furlough arrangements, it may take longer than usual for you to receive a response, but please be assured we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Last updated: 08/10/2020

Previous updates:

24/09/2020 - update