A Union in Name Only

Harry Clay

When I first heard the words  ‘Students’ Union,’ I assumed that they would be planning the next big protest, aiming to get all 18,000 students demanding change, demanding something better. What an ass that made me.

Before you get the wrong idea, no, I don’t hate YUSU. It certainly has a side to it that I can’t knock, that is, funding student interest groups. The amount of good that’s done for me personally is beyond comparison, and I’m sure many people feel the same way. Whatever bollocks you’re interested in, they probably kick at least £500 its way each year, which is kind of a lovely thing to do. 

But is it a union? Is that what a union should be doing? I’m solidly of the opinion that it should be an organisation dedicated to advancing the interests and conditions of its members: students.

Now, interests, like I said, are fulfilled, but conditions? Do we really look to YUSU to improve our conditions?

Maybe, now that Steph Hayle is in her second term. Nobody seems to have carved out the niche of “having a go at the Uni” better than her, but I feel like that’s almost a symptom of the problem. Why is one officer, who’s taken head on a couple of campaigns, seen as the shining star of the Union? Why isn’t the Union itself directly and systematically prepared to make that its primary purpose?

Yes, before you read it, Ollie Martin, and I assume you’ll be about the only person, I know you and the other Sabbs are all taking on a campaign or two a piece yourselves at the moment, and that’s all very lovely, but there is still a problem.

If YUSU is prepared to be an institution that just so happens to allow a Sabb or two to fight against injustice, as opposed to that  being its systematic nature, then I find it hard to call it a true union. That should be its main purpose. That should be the bread and butter. There should be some sort of cold war style direct line between the Heslington Kremlin, and our bastion of freedom at Samara Jones’ desk. And that line should be used for bollocking the Uni, and bollocking alone. 

So is there a way out of the conundrum? Well, yes and no. For now, call the bloody thing a Students’ Guild. Because that’s a whole heap more accurate to what we have at the moment. But in the long term, YUSU needs more money.

It needs more staff that can do more good work, and hey ho, why not throw even more of the cold and hard at student interests. It’s going to take money to reform YUSU, because it needs systematic change, not face-saving campaigning. Fuck it, get some real hard-nut lefties in there. Get the ghost of Tony Benn or something. He can’t be too expensive. 

Featured image by YUSU.