Student Politics: My Love-Hate Relationship

12:30Ciaran McCormick

Guest writer Edward Oakes reflects on his experience of running as a Student Union Officer

Student politics may be seen by many as a waste of time and pointless in the large scale of things happening in our world. Strangely, this view is also held by many who are students themselves and instinctively distance themselves from any activities of their Students Union.

How can student politics fit into the blur of student life?

Less than eight months ago, I also had very little interest in the activities of my Students Union and what it could do for me and my fellow students. However, I am now embarking on changing the minds of others and trying to get them engaged with their SU as a recently elected Students Union Officer in London.  I managed to stumble into a group of students who were looking to change how our Union was run. At first, I thought I had very little to offer them as I had no idea what my role would involve and, initially, little interest in it.

However, after our first informal meeting my interest grew rapidly and I became intrigued by what the activities of my union had to offer me other than the basic sports clubs and societies. I explored my possible role within the union and immediately saw glaring problems, some of which I thought I could almost immediately fix. I want to have a working relationship with the Residents Assistants of the Halls in my Campus so that they can pass on problems. I thought I could improve the number of events during the day and at weekends for students living off campus.

As election week loomed I had evolved from a student who had little idea of the Students Union and the good it could do to one who had an extensive knowledge of the power for change that it had to make students experiences more enjoyable. After the hardest week of my life campaigning constantly to try to convince many uninterested students that I was worth two minutes of their time, I managed to win my part time position alongside many of those who had got me involved. We now face a year in which we aim to tackle many of the problems we highlighted in the election week.

So before I have even spent a minute campaigning on any of the issues I set out to I have already gained some faith in student politics and Students Unions. Just by meeting the people who got me involved and knowing that they care as much as I do about the students we represent.

However, this problem of getting students engaged in the union that represents them is a serious issue facing many universities up and down the country. Especially students who would be a valuable member of the union, this is often the case when they are engaged politically on the national scene but see the National Union of Students and their Students Union as a home of the left. So how can these students who feel ideologically left out of the very union that represents them, be encouraged to get involved?

This serious lack of integration of students who lean to the right of the political spectrum could be tackled by the national campaign of the National Union of Students. They could abandon any political agenda and focus purely on helping students unions fight campaigns that help their students, walking away from campaigns against austerity and government actions that don’t entirely affect the student population. This could allow for greater mass participation on campaigns concerning students without isolating those who align themselves differently when it comes to national politics. Ultimately, it would make the National Union of Students a stronger institution and a greater vehicle for change for the students of the United Kingdom.

Have you fallen in or out of love with student politics? Tell us in the comments.

Image courtesy of Flickr/pennstatenews

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