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You may have noticed, in recent weeks, that many individuals have highlighted concerns about LUSU’s commitment to its EWD activities. Certainly the current level of funding granted to the EWD remit is pathetic; only £4000 annually is guaranteed to the campaigns of the EWD officers. This is unacceptable.
As a consequence of such a low budget, different interest groups are forced to compete for funding from a union that should be responding to all their needs. This all comes at a time when LUSU sabbaticals are promoting that we do more than ever, increasing officer training and encouraging students to attend NUS’s liberation events. The finances to allow this simply aren’t there, meaning that there shall always be certain voices that go unheard and certain groups without the chance to participate.
This however is but one part of the union’s latent disregard for issues of equality. Union Council itself reveals a host of other examples documenting the disturbing attitude LUSU holds towards equality. The 2010 non-sabbatical review significantly altered the structure of student officers, abolishing positions for unrepresented minority groups. These changes were carried out without student or officer consultation, and never required student approval. The review failed to gain support from even one officer in LUSU’s EWD portfolio, yet still it was forced through by a majority with no experience, understanding or interest in matters of equality and diversity. Whilst some of these topics may be contentious, LUSU’s current approach of swiftly dismissing concerns in unrepresentative council meetings doesn’t serve the interests of any students.
EWD officers fight in LUSU against constant opposition: feminists are criticised for objecting to ‘pimps and hoes’ socials, whilst LGBTQ activists are told that those whose gender identity is non-conformative are in too much of a minority for us to progress the cause of. There is evidently justification for the union’s sliding reputation among NUS’s liberation campaigns.
Recently, this trend was taken to the extreme; student participation in decision-making about equality completely eradicated. Whilst it appeared that the referendum put to students during Lent Term was solely about ensuring the union constitution complies with legal expectations required for LUSU to gain charity status, an additional action was made on the mandate of this referendum, which abolished the ‘groups’ of LUSU specifically dedicated to minority student representation. These groups had protected status under the constitution due to their purpose in promoting minority representation; altering them thus required the direct consent, in a separate referendum, of the full union. Such minor technicalities remain unimportant however in a union where a small number of officers act in a top-down fashion, imposing their will rather than listening to the views of students.
Here we have the real explanation for the unenthusiastic relationship that students have with their union, for the attitude at the heart of the problems discussed above permeates throughout everything our union does. A union that does not listen to its own officers, yet alone its students, cannot be thought of as practicing good student democracy.