Student Unions are traditionally organisations which are there to ‘enhance’ the student experience. Created to offer support to students from welfare to academic needs and to offer socials for students to mix. The first two criteria are often very important as students may need someone to help them in these areas. While at school and college a teacher may have had time to sit down with the student and go through their work, whilst with lecturers this is often not possible. Welfare could cover all ranges of personal issues from drug and alcohol abuse to chronic homesickness.
Student Unions were not meant to be moral arbiters. Student Unions, and those that run them have taken it upon themselves to declare themselves the guardians of the student population. They gain their authority from ‘elections’ which most students aren’t interested in, often recording a laughable turnout. These elected Union reps have powers that far exceed any mandate which have to be questioned. An example of this is Lancaster University Students Union banning lad’s mags on the campus entirely. This was a moral decision, not taken for welfare reasons, but to make a political point which actively restricts the student’s right to choose what they read. There is no remit for the Student Union to decide what can and cannot be sold on campus as long as it is lawful.
Manchester University Students Union recently decided that a military stall in the fresher’s fair couldn’t be put in the same building as everyone else’s. Once again a union was acting as a moral arbiter on what students could and what they couldn’t see. A quote from the welfare office of the union was “usually we don’t like military on campus”. Well as an atheist I am not a fan of big groups such as the Christian union handing out flyers, but I accept that everyone has a right to participate. The same Union also controversially banned coca –cola on campus.
These are just two examples among many which can be found of what modern day Student Unions have morphed into. They have become self-righteous political bodies enforcing their personal likes and dislikes onto the student body without real mandate. Student Unions have become quasi political bodies whose aim is push the agendas of their soon to be politically relevant executive. Let me read and drink as I wish. Unions need to get their act together and give real support to the students and societies they were created to support, something they are catagorically failing to do.