York takes great pride in the huge variety of student societies that it has to offer – it’s one of YUSU’s chief boasts. Quite right I say. As a humanities student, I set great store by the publications and distinctive groups that are available. I happen to be acquainted with a fair few; some which are YUSU ratified some which are not. Over the past two years I’ve been interested in The Looking Glass Anthology, The Narrator, Unknown Magazine, The Antigone Collective and others besides.
However, what’s worrying is that YUSU seems to be forming the opinion that societies such as these are too similar to deserve autonomy as ratified societies. In their application to become a YUSU society, new propositions that appear to resemble what is already on offer have been turned down. And that’s not all. Certain societies that are currently receiving YUSU funding and support could face losing their independence in the union’s effort to reorganise and merge societies. This attitude betrays a certain ignorance of, or a reluctance to acknowledge, the crucially distinctive nature of both what these organisations represent and what they produce.
The interest I take, in quite a broad spectrum of student organisations, is down to the fact that they all offer tangibly unique platforms. I speak as a History and English student but it’s clear that one of the commendable achievements of these societies is that they’ve extricated themselves from the generalised moulds of ‘English’ or ‘Philosophy’. With regard to The Looking Glass Anthology it’s interesting to see that excellent pieces of poetry, drama and prose are submitted from not just English Literature but a whole host of subjects: Maths, Economics, Politics, History and so on. Indeed, it’s this interdisciplinary nature which makes for such diverse reading.
The suspicion that YUSU are seeking to reorganise student societies is particularly worrying for The Looking Glass Anthology. The implication seems to be that unless the Anthology merges with creative writing group Inklings, the Anthology will lose its status as an independently run society. Those interested in the Anthology and Inklings will be aware that, although there have been collaborations between the two, these societies are undeniably different when it comes to structure and purpose. It’s important to note just how special The Looking Glass Anthology is. Nowhere else in Britain is there a university anthology of undergraduate writing that is published and then shelved in the British Library. So you can’t seriously tell me that the Anthology lacks distinctiveness. As editor-in-chief Lois Ollerenshaw commented: “I’m incredibly anxious about the future of The Looking Glass Anthology as an independent publication of the best student writing.” As time goes on, though many have welcomed the collaboration between these related societies, few would like to see a coerced marriage of convenience.