As the start of the new academic year approaches, we all have a duty to look out for one another and act appropriately. I’m confident that we can pull together as a community and adapt to our ‘new normal’.

Being a member of the Executive at LSU affords you a number of privileges, not least becoming somebody ‘in the know’ of Students’ Union and University affairs. Confidential information is divulged to you, and you become privy to information many weeks before it is made public knowledge.

Nevertheless, no matter how much of the planning you are involved in, myself and many others are only too aware of the importance of getting these next couple of months right. In a matter of weeks, more than a million students will travel all over the country as the start of a new University year beckons. Approximately 18,000 of these will be returning to Loughborough, and several thousand more will be starting their postgraduate studies on our London campus. Indeed, we are already welcoming individuals to Loughborough as international students from particular countries return in advance of the start of term in order to self-isolate in accordance with travel restrictions.

Those of you who follow the news will be well aware of the government and higher education sector’s apprehension of the impact this mass migration might have on COVID-19 transmission. Loughborough is not immune to this and the plans we have put in place go some way to mitigating the risk. However, preparing campus and adapting facilities is only half of the equation. The other half lies with us, and our behaviour.

We have no choice but to adapt our attitude as we enter the 2020/21 academic year. Some of this will be enforced – clubs in town and at the Union will remain closed, for example – but the rest falls squarely on our shoulders.

It is our responsibility to maintain social distancing outside of our households, limit gatherings to numbers in line with government guidance, and adhere to any requests for face coverings to be worn. Failure to adhere to these adaptations and we risk a local lockdown and the tightening of measures once again. In my last blog I spoke about the importance of community in the time of COVID. We need to pull together as one ‘#LboroFamily’ to give us the best chance of continuing to receive (albeit limited) face-to-face teaching, taking part in extra-curricular activities, and taking advantage of pubs, bars, and restaurants being open.

In the coming weeks LSU will be releasing its Freshers timetable, a schedule that will look dramatically different to that of previous years. However, this is a year of opportunity for the Union, one where we can diversify our output. In previous years we have tended to follow the same ‘Freshers blueprint’; now, we have no choice but to shake things up a bit. This resolute optimism for the year ahead is a mindset I have instilled in the new Executive, as well as the wider staff at LSU, and I hope it is one you share too.

We can make this year as successful as any other, but to do so we need to be mindful of the role we all have to play this year. The responsibility is on our shoulders.

Matt Youngs is the 2020-21 President of Loughborough Students’ Union.

[email protected] | @LSU_President


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