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So, the time of year for the Budget has come around again and, like every year, there are controversies and arguments over what funding goes to who, when and where. One of the most contentious, but I believe better, changes has been the 24% increase in funding for the College JCR Execs, bringing all of their funding into equal measures, at the expense of funding to the Post-Graduate Students Association, Grad College’s equivalent of a JCR.
But why do I think that this is better? Well first and foremost this shows that LUSU is serious about devolving more power and responsibility to the Colleges, this can only be a good thing for the University and for the collegiate system. For far too long have we argued with the University about retaining our individual college system, claiming that they are better for social lives, welfare provision and simply about retaining idenitity around campus for the students, yet LUSU has, for the most part, a centralised service. But having a strong central student union is not how Lancaster works nor is it how it should work.
In my three years at Lancaster I have been both a JCR officer and a LUSU Part Time Officer, or PTO, and so I can see the difference with how the different roles works. Ask any student who is on their JCR and I believe most people will be able to name and recognise at lease their President, the Social Secretaries and the Welfare Officers. Dependent on the size of both the College and JCR team, the average person on the spine would probably be able to recognise more. It is this very fact of knowing who to talk to which means that more people would be prepared to discuss any potential problems they may have with their course or their flatmates with JCR officers and so these problems get sorted quicker.
Conversely PTO’s and other LUSU officials, such as the Full Time Executive Officers, are far more distant. With the Part Time Officers people are often unsure of their role, and indeed in many cases this role is to co-ordinate and facilitate the workings of JCR officers, rather than dealing with problems directly. As to the Full Time Officers within LUSU, whilst people may be able to recognise them by sight, how many people can say they feel as comfortable going into the LUSU Building and meeting with people they may recongnise from their free LUSU calendars or from election posters? Many students may feel unable to approach Full Time Officers but find their JCR a far more comfortable experience.
Secondly, I mentioned that this increase in undergrad college funding came at the expense of the Post Grad Student Association’s funding. Initially I didn’t necessarily mark this as a good thing as graduate students are in need of help and support from their students union as much as undergrads. However whilst this does mean a reduction in funding for the PGSA directly, it also marks the shift in recent years for graduate students to be taken more seriously. The PGSA is often stuck without complete teams of people at their elections, mainly due to the busy schedules and workloads of its membership, and at the same time is stuck with little representation within the upper levels of the Union, with there presently being only 3 of the 56 members of Union council having lived the graduate experience. Now LUSU is taking a more direct approach to helping grad students, which can only be a good thing for the students of Graduate college.
In summary, more money for the JCRs, to put on more socials and to provide more Welfare support directly to the student population, is the best move the Union has made for a long while, joined by the fact that finally LUSU is making real progress in improving the way it helps Grad Students. Things are looking good for the Union’s future.