By Katherine Brown, MA Chinese Studies
The Students’ Union bar and shop normally generate 70% of the Students’ Union (SU)’s annual income. Government announcements on 1 November excluded universities and schools from closing during the National lockdown. However, the majority of on campus amenities, including the student union bar and shop have remained closed since March.
In speaking to the SOAS Spirit, Anna Dodridge, General Manager of the SU, said the loss was ‘detrimental to a certain degree,’ but not as detrimental to the functions and aims of the SU as not being able to facilitate interactions with students in person. Dodridge has said that there are savings from the reduced expenditures going out, which has softened the financial impact. The SU merchandise shop continues to sell products online.
According to the SU, most of the staff at the SU bar were on yearly contracts, with only two staff members on permanent contracts. The staff on yearly contracts were furloughed until the end of their contracts. Those contracts have not been renewed.
“The SU have affirmed that if they cannot guarantee the safety of staff and students, the bar and shop will remain closed. “
The last update on the SU website from 30 September indicated their hopes to reopen the JCR and bar dependent on SOAS’ return to campus plans. The SU have affirmed that if they cannot guarantee the safety of staff and students, the bar and shop will remain closed. Yasmin Elsouda, the co-president for Welfare and Campaigns at the SU, emphasised that this was a moral stance the SU held, regardless of the financial loss they will face.
SOAS has made the decision to solely deliver online teaching for the remainder of the academic year due to the enduring pandemic. The library services and study spaces remain open with an online booking system in place. This is despite the fact that several other London colleges including Imperial and LSE, alongside other universities across the UK, have been able to have some form of face-to-face campus contact.
The closures will also no doubt be a loss to student life, along with the closures of the UCL and Birkbeck student bars near Russell Square. With students continuing to pay full tuition fees this year despite completely online delivery, students will be looking for alternative social activities from the SU, who in turn will be looking to regain some lost revenue.
Photo Caption: The beloved SOAS Students’ Union amenities remain closed (Credit: Jasper Newport, The Tab).