Following internal discussions and student feedback, a KCLSU campaign to “Protect our Wednesday afternoons” in Semester 2 has succeeded, it was announced on 12 October.
Niall Berry, Vice-President of Activities and Development for KCLSU, said on behalf of the union team, “We are very happy to announce that the university have now agreed to protect Wednesday afternoons from 2pm onwards starting in semester two.”
Where possible, Wednesday afternoons tend to be ring-fenced for various purposes, traditionally sports. Even University College London (UCL) states, “We keep Wednesday afternoons free for students to enable them to participate in extra-curricular activities.”
Due to the uncertainty in March this year, it was decided by university management that seminars in semester 1 could be held throughout the working week, in order to provide extra flexibility for timetabling. In September, KCLSU started lobbying to “reinstate protected time on Wednesday afternoons in second semester”. College committees then voted to recommend this to the University’s senior management team, who approved it last week.
On 12 October, KCLSU released a statement adding, “They have also committed to funding mitigations to ensure face-to-face teaching time is not negatively impacted by removing Wednesday afternoons from timetabling.
“Students use Wednesday afternoons to take part in sports or engage with societies, study or complete course work, take time for their wellbeing, work to fund their degrees or fulfil caring commitments, alongside many other activities. The previous officer team had agreed that this time could be used for timetabling during semester one to give the university some timetabling flexibility during the uncertainty at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the university had later planned to extend this measure into the second semester as well. The current officer team felt that continuing to remove this time beyond term 1 would have too much of a negative impact on student experience – which is already very much impacted by the ongoing pandemic.” It also thanked students for sending testimonials and supporting the campaign.
This positive statement comes weeks after a strongly-worded bulletin by the KCLSU student officers team “to make public our reflections and feelings towards actions taken by King’s College London”. The bulletin went on to say, “We recognise the importance of sports groups and societies by the social, personal, emotional and physical health boosts that these groups have given us through our time at university, and that our King’s Community would be severely affected without them… We will be doing our utmost to prevent KCL from proactively stripping us of this.”
Before the announcement this week, Roar spoke to a variety of students affected.
Mark Halstead, third-year Chemistry student, is distance captain of the Athletics and Cross Country Club. He described himself as “definitely pro-keeping Wednesday afternoons protected — specifically this year”. “Returning students”, he said, “anticipate free Wednesdays and now may have to change schedules — it’s about how people plan their lives”. He explains, “running is one of the few things you can do with the rule of six”. He was concerned as the Club’s open runs on Wednesday afternoon are used by serious and new runners alike, and are “a way to keep people running… especially when more people this year are taking up running casually”.
Alfie Wilson, second-year History and International Relations student, and sports editor for Roar, plays right back for the GKT Football 4s. As they have weekly fixtures on Wednesday afternoon, “I’m trying to change seminar groups [for one of his modules]. That failing, I’ll be subbed off 15 mins early and join the Microsoft Teams meeting in a dingy dressing room”. He says that he would support timetabling for in-person teaching, but “online timetabling during that period makes no sense whatsoever” and adds that his dad, a lecturer at UCL, “cherishes his Wednesday afternoons ‘off’ greatly”.
Gabi Januskeviciute, second year Liberal Arts student, uses Wednesday afternoons for health appointments and participating in KCL’s Korean Hallyu Society. Timetabling then would have “really interfered” with that, she said, adding “since second semester will have a heavier workload, I’d really like to have that little bit of free space on Wednesdays”.
Joseph Lee, second-year War Studies student and in the fencing and rugby teams, said the “main problem would be the uncertainty and necessity for societies to rebalance their training and competition schedule. This is particularly difficult as we have no guarantee that BUCS [British Universities and College Sports’] would follow us and help us by organising matches on another day”.