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How can I promote better relations between student groups generally?

Better student relations

A welcoming and healthy atmosphere is the most effective way to encourage the integration and participation of all students in the life of the university.

- Show leadership. Maintain and protect good relationships. See below. Be fair and even-handed, and maintain an atmosphere of reciprocity – which is most people's intuitive sense of what is fair.
- Create a climate where the needs of all are met, in proportion to the need; not in proportion to the insistence of the demand.
- Consider encouraging student groups to organise events, meetings and activities that cross boundaries. Make sure that your support is practical (such as providing resource where needed).
- Consider having a 'vision statement' or a 'mission statement' or a similar aspirational message that is more positively phrased than 'anti-discrimination' or 'equal opportunities' policies usually are. Draw this up in a collaborative exercise – and preferably one that is fun as well. Try Sticker Voting or some of the other activities and formats.
- Encourage students and staff alike to implement and respect this statement in their public events and debates.
- Encourage staff and students to improve their own communication skills.

How to create and sustain good relationships:

- Maintain an atmosphere of respect, equality, tolerance, and openness
- Be willing to listen, and listen until you really understand
- Demonstrate your understanding by reporting and responding to their views accurately and without distortion
- Find or create common ground and a shared, higher purpose you all commit yourselves to
- Don't just pursue your agenda: listen to and deliver on their concerns and needs. Be as concerned about the issues that damage and threaten them as you are about the issues that you are concerned about
- Be worthy of trust: deliver on their concerns, be even-handed, keep promises, and where you can't deliver on their expectations, tell them and explain why
- Ask for their help and support: demonstrate in action your trust and respect
- Create and follow through on providing benefits to partnership
- Provide support, encouragement, and resources for their social supportive infrastructure, special needs or events if you are in that position.
- Back them when they need it. If you are a staff member, do this through provision of support such as help from welfare or student support officers, External Relations departments in case of negative media coverage, informal advice from a development officer on their fundraising efforts for good causes, etc.

Characteristics of a healthy atmosphere:

- Willingness to listen and understand the views of students
- Concern and attentiveness to their varied needs
- Visible fairness and equality
- Reciprocity is a key test of fairness in most people's eyes: where co-operation or commitment are requested, they are also given in turn
- Respect is manifested in words, actions, policies as well as interpersonal conduct
- Commitment to act on their concerns, rights, vulnerabilities
- Two-way trust
- Support made real in practical matters as well as 'good intentions'
- Clear benefits exist for positive attitudes and engagement: more carrots than sticks
- Appreciation for what they have to offer: that their presence enriches the university community and is a part of the university's character, ethos, identity
- Openness and understanding of legitimate activism or 'radical' views – political activism or engagement is not the same as religious extremism, nor is it necessarily a sign of terrorist sympathies

  • Posted by campusalam
  • Resource title How can I promote better relations between student groups generally?
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