An unabashed redaction of the Marxist fetishism and financial catastrophe that is the University of London Union.
A spectre has long haunted the University of London Union – the spectre of communism.
Founded in 1921 as the vanguard of student welfare and with a commitment to maintaining both an enjoyable and intellectually furnishing experience for students of all colleges of the University of London, it is saddening in a historical sense to see the old girl go. But when it was announced last week that the University of London’s Deputy Vice Chancellor, Paul Webley, had reached a decision that the University of London Union is to be disbanded, I muttered a low expression of amusement over my morning coffee.
With the University of London as my alma mater, I say good riddance to ULU. Witnessing it from the sidelines and keeping a keen eye on it all the while, I have seen enough hot air blown to lament a missed opportunity in providing an alternative energy resource, from a band of self-styled leftist ‘radicals’ interested not in the provision of services for the students under their ward, but rather in their own political (and sometimes entrepreneurial) self-interests. This motley crew have appropriated a level of exclusivity that would (ironically) make the Bullingdon Club blush: the criteria for membership being holding political convictions of the most radical Marxist-Leninist stripe.
I couldn’t have cared less if the ULU President was a fascistic Odinist convinced that all people from Yorkshire have no souls: so long as this was kept out of his or her occupational role. But instead, ULU has had someone, or some few, exploit their positions (paid for by all colleges in the University of London) to further their own political agendas, particularly on issues as irrelevant to the student body as the Israel-Palestine conflict and the 2003 liberation of Iraq. Political opportunism doesn’t cut the mustard, particularly when it comes to the gruesome twosome of Michael Chessum and Daniel Cooper (Click here to see Mr Chessum refusing to condemn the violence and destruction of private property during the 2010 student protests).
There has been some protest (although none of it in any truly significant form from the vast bulk of the University of London’s students) that the decision to dismantle ULU is “destroying democracy”, or similar. This would be a fair criticism to raise, were it at all relevant. Less than 1% of the University of London’s student body over the last five years has bothered voting in the ULU elections, largely due to the same disenfranchisement I have cited for myself here. To illustrate, Heythrop College, London had the highest percentage turnout to vote in the ULU elections, with only 5.1% of their approximately one thousand students. Meanwhile, the Institute of Education, boasting a much grander seven thousand students, sported only a 0.23% turnout in the same elections, despite their campus being only a minute’s walk from the ULU building in Bloomsbury itself. When dolts such as the recent succession of opportunistic bureaucrats at ULU claim to ‘represent’ the students of the University of London when 99% of that body didn’t even bother voting, democracy is already decomposing, if not wholly destroyed.
It is for this reason that I wish to mention finances, also. It isn’t just the case that for the vast majority of University of London students, ULU has been a trivially unimportant organization: it is no secret that ULU has existed as a financial menace for years to all of its subscribing colleges. Obviously the bulk of these funds have been provided by the financial titans of the University’s collegiate subscribers such as University College, London and King’s College, London, but every college has been quid’s in for ULU, often for little in return from the representative members themselves. I could cope with financial losses, were the students being given a quality service: but the heads and reps of ULU have done quite the opposite, from the time I first became a University of London student up until now.
The new plans from Webley, proposed for Summer 2014, aim to cut financial losses for the University of London and eradicate political opportunism and bureaucracy, whilst retaining all services for the student body at the current ULU headquarters in Malet Street, where it has been since 1957 (according to N.B. Harte’s University of London: 1836-1986: an illustrated history).
The spirit has been exorcised, and may it never return – the student body of one of the world’s most respected and intellectually recognised Universities deserves better than the shady crowd that ULU has produced over the past few years.