Student Unionism is dead. Long live Student Unionism. Claimed the famously ironic student, once dwelling in the depths of the SU’s bars and courtyards, now residing in trendy cafés and houses in town. The internet, inspiring activists to go to their armchairs, and the false promises and disappointment of early 21st century government have worked to quell any feelings of unionising effort in the movement; apathy is the word spreading through the emptying lecture halls of Universities across the countries. Gone are the days of big protests, fresh new radical ideas and platforms for everyone to be equally heard on in Student Unions.
Yet they are cleverer than ever before; the 21st Student Union has transformed into a calculatedly careful, finely tuned beast of critical friendship to its appropriate university. It provides a wide range of employable skills, educates one for the real world and continuously scrutinises the university for academic quality and enhancement of its various courses. These are all reasons I got involved in the Liverpool Guild of Students, not for large scale protests, not to benefit my personal belief system, rather for my belief in providing the best possible experience for students at Liverpool University.
But sometimes, it is necessary to look beyond the immediate benefit to something wider and universal.
In 2015 there will be a general election. It will be fought over the NHS and our public services apparently https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lF1JiUx437M. The student voice was used at the last demo, to protest against tuition fees being hiked up, and everyone ignored it. 10,000 students turned out and nothing came of it. People came away feeling useless and demoralised, forgetting that students did stand united. We cannot let the student voice go unheard, we must engage students in the 2015 General Election and we have an obligation to be political as a Student Union. The 19th November 2014 is a chance to show how we still care about tuition fees, and it is not just a lost cause to be discarded as an issue. I believe in free education. I believe in a more progressive tax that funds Universities to make education free for all and widens participation for people from all social groups. I also believe Universities should radically re-think the content and way they teach, so it is informed by a representative population of students, not white old upper-middle class men. I know this is idealist and not based in pragmatism, and I accept that. I also believe we should not give up on things we believe in.
If we show there is still a dissatisfaction with the way the young are treated, political parties might listen. if we show that the future generation that will run this country are becoming disenfranchised and disconnected with politics, government will turn their heads until we are older and right for the picking. But, if we aim to change the attitudinal slant of Neo-Thatcherite NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) youth numbed with the Huxleyian internet-instant-satisfaction we may just strike a chord.
As long as we don’t act too radical that is. Then, and only then, we might just be listened to.