Like the Lib Dems, Hungry Hippos and my beloved Chelsea, CUSU has become one of those groups it’s trendy to bash. You can’t move nowadays without your mates telling you how little CUSU does to represent them, how it’s run by ‘career socialists’ (or worse still, ‘feminist Marxists’), and how we’d all be a lot better off if we disaffiliated. I’m here today to ask you to give CUSU a break, and maybe to consider why you really hold those views. I know it’s scary, big bad CUSU with all those horrid nasty Socialists, so I’ll hold your hand if you like. Doesn’t that feel better already?
Just for the record, I’m not a wannabe Sabbatical Officer or a would-be JCR President. I’m a normal bloke who, like everyone, cares about making this uni better for me and better for future students. (Alright, I do a bit of marching and shouting once in a while, but a man’s got to have interests).
I keep hearing how CUSU apparently does nothing, and how uninformed students are about its campaigns. Well, get informed. It takes all of a minute to Google ‘CUSU Campaigns’ and find loads of information, and maybe even get involved in one. Hell, I managed it, and I once poured hot tea into a glass thinking it was a mug. Also, CUSU is one of the only Students’ Unions in the country not to employ a dedicated Publicity or Communications Officer to tell you how great it’s doing, preferring instead to put that money into better and bigger campaigns. So part of the reason you don’t hear a lot about it is that there’s nobody immediately on hand to tell you, and you can’t be bothered to look, because cat GIFs and pretending to be outraged about lefties are just so much more fun.
The second commonly-heard complaint is that CUSU is ‘overly political’. I’ll break it to you slowly. It’s a Union. That’s the whole point. Unions are designed to campaign for better conditions for those they represent, be that workers or students, and that’s an inherently political and politicised issue. You can’t depoliticise a Union (or autonomous campaigns within it) without destroying its entire function. It isn’t an issue of representing you personally, so much as constantly campaigning for things that will make your life, and the lives of future undergraduates, slightly better and easier, even if those things only indirectly relate to you right now today. That’s what a Union is for, and I for one am very grateful for it.
As for what Sabbs do all day, I don’t know the details. But I’m sure they work their hardest to represent students. I went to a CUSU procedural meeting once, and without naming names, it certainly wasn’t the Sabbs being rude, interrupting, and holding it up for everyone else. If you’re concerned that your Sabbs aren’t meeting their election promises, you could, y’know, email them and ask what they’ve done. Why not send one a Facebook message? Live on the edge. The world’s your oyster, girl.
So rather than pretending to be upset about underrepresentation, and then voting for a ‘radical’ (white, male, middle-class) candidate who’s indistinguishable from the others and won’t represent anyone apart from you and your mates, or RONing every option and thinking you’re punk as fuck, next time, why not sensibly cast your vote for the candidate whose principles and ideas are most in line with yours? And now that the new CUSU President has been elected, why not email them and ask them what they’re planning to do next, and how ordinary students can get involved? I know you’re busy, but doing that wouldn’t take long.
Like offence, it works both ways – CUSU isn’t unrepresentative unless deep down, you really want it to be.