To all Committee Members, Society Committees, Sports Committees and Volunteers:

I’m sorry. That event you’ve had cancelled and have put hours into isn’t going ahead. The plans you have for your society ball have been thrown into doubt. The exams you’ve been helping other students with events in your department over the last few months look uncertain, and you’re stuck yourself.

But look, I wanted to tell you all how proud you should be of yourselves. That’s for two things. One, for all that work you’ve done so far. Secondly to remind you that Sheffield has the number one Students’ Union in the country, and that is only for one reason. It’s because of you.

All of our student groups are the beating heart of our University community. I can’t stress that enough. Of course, you come to University to get a degree. We all know that. But, it’s when you accidentally fall into hitch-hiking with Bummit, joining your departmental society, or going to your first ROAR with your sports team that you really fall in love with the Steel City. It’s when you run for a position at an AGM because you want to make our already amazing societies even better. It’s that moment when you are nominated to win something at the Activities or Sports Awards and ring Mum or Dad to let them know about it. It’s every single pound you raise through RAG for the hundreds of amazing charities we have across South Yorkshire.

You see Sheff, the thing about our University community is you make us what we are.

If you go to any University across the country, they’ll tell you how they are striving to be the best. They’ll tell you words like how they want you to be ‘sector leading’ or to ‘enhance student experience’. The reason why we’re so fortunate is nobody here imposes anything on you. There’s no expectation. We don’t tell you to do anything, we just help each other bring our ideas to reality, and they are often incredible.

You make our community as brilliant as it is, and I thought it was so important to tell you that.

The reason why I’m rambling on right now, is in this uncertain time, our students need you as their leaders more than ever. Those of you who are a committee member of a society, the members of our working and representative committees, all of our student volunteers or our sports club committees who are working out what to do now Varsity has sadly been cancelled, you will make a difference.

In difficult times, we look to leaders to help us through things, and I know that you’re all ready to rise to the challenge. We see it time and time again every single year.

I posted yesterday about how we’ve now got a remote Film Unit online, and how we’re running digital club-nights. You make us great and at a time which feels challenging and uncertain, you will no doubt have amazing and creative ideas. You can thrive at this point, and start experimenting with ideas.

I have no doubt that although those events you’ve wanted to do for ages look uncertain now, you’ll spend this time planning things even bigger and better. You’ll come up with ideas that will change things for our student community years to come.

With everyone living in a digital world at this point, it seems the best time for us to elevate each other’s voices whilst everyone is listening, so go out and tell people what you want to work on. Make sure you all pull together and get all of your members to work on what you think is important.

Jake Verity, during his term as Students’ Union President. (Image: Sheffield Students’ Union)

Let’s use these next few weeks to focus our energy into doing things we’ve never seen before.

If you have an idea, why not ask another society to work with you on it? If you want to push a really important campaign, get in touch with committees or Officers and we’ll help drive that work alongside you. If you’re wanting to go out and help in the community, speak to everyone around you about what you can do as a team and how you can help.

I’m putting this out as a message of hope to you all, because it doesn’t have to be a terrible end to the year. It doesn’t need to be a muted trudge towards the end of term where you pick up your degree. It certainly doesn’t have to be the end of your time making Sheffield brilliant, even if you’re somewhere else in the world right now.

So, if you’re reading this, please take this as something to smile about. Let’s start getting excited about our Sheffield community and what we can achieve. We can make amazing things happen if we all stay positive, talk to each other and come together.

Take care everyone, and start getting excited. This is the time we never thought we’d have, and it gives us the chance to think of the things we never thought we could. Let’s make some history during this time, and let’s come out of it together.

So, to summarise – the three key things to take back to your committees are:

  1. Check in with each other regularly (via Facebook or Whatsapp). Run your Committee meetings via Google Hangouts even if it’s nothing to do with University, your student group or Sheffield. You’ll all pick each other up and have a laugh and a smile. It’s needed at this time!
  2. Work out what your priorities are. Things are constantly changing, so it’s worth everyone having a chat on what you’d like to work on. This could help to give you all some focus over the next few weeks, and also means you can work on the things that are important at this time.
  3. Reach out to another student group which isn’t your own. You might come up with a brilliant idea together that you never thought of, and we’re all in the same boat so it’s good to make new friends and work through this together.

Jake Verity is Sheffield Students’ Union President for 2019/20.

Image credit: Juliet Cookson

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