YUSU, known formally as the University of York’s Student Union, functions – amidst an embarrassing number of acronyms – to represent the needs of every student at the university. YUSU is technically responsible for creating the ideal ‘student experience’: whether in the form of free condoms (pray you don’t run into someone important when stashing a handful), academic advice (if you haven’t already forgotten that you came to York to study), or drinks deals at on-campus events.
YUSU is run by six paid Sabbatical Officers (Sabbs), York graduates elected by the rest of us during term two, pleading for votes by canvassing your kitchen in gimmicky posters during the ultimate battle of campus politics. For confidential advice or a rant, YUSU are open to informal e-mails and visits at their James College headquarters, where no one is quite certain what goes on. The Sabbs are aided by student officers representing areas such as Racial Equality, Volunteering or life as an international student.
RAG, aka Raising and Giving, holds its own week in the YUSU calendar where Colleges compete to raise the most money for student-chosen charities, ending in a University, themed parade throughout the town centre. RAG also run hitches and ‘raids’; essentially hitchhiking to cities in the UK and abroad, then running around like lunatics with collection pots. Donating is inevitable, whether through a sponsored skydive or getting a couple of pints in the name of charity at the annual on-campus mini festival, Woodstock.
YUSU also holds two ‘Viking Raids’, York-based bar crawls which see over 1500 students descend upon the city in colour-coded t-shirts; Viking hats are optional.
Most Freshers would agree that involvement in societies probably played a bigger part in their first year than their academic studies. (Degree? What degree?) Groups such as Fusion – who run an annual fashion and dance production – or members of YUM – York University Media: a radio station, television station and two newspapers – are well known for their contributions to York’s campus life. Meanwhile, societies like Medieval Society or the York Entrepreneurs produce specialised events like re-enactments, and York’s very own own version of The Apprentice.
YUSU has been criticised in the past for the fact that our Union building houses Sabb offices and the Advice and Support Centre, rather than a club or bar like most other SUs. But this year has seen the launch of The Courtyard: a shiny (orange, YUSU’s flagship colour) Student Union bar situated right in the heart of Langwith College. It’s a popular haunt for wasting time between or even during lectures, with a menu offering affordable pancakes, tapas, burgers and wraps.
To burn all those calories off, Union sports clubs compete at the largest sporting event of the year, ‘Roses’, versus our Lancaster University rivals. York Sport membership allows access to the Sports Centre in James College, but membership of the on-campus gym costs extra.
YUSU is rather like your great-aunt: dull if you get into a long conversation, but parties like it’s 1999. Despite Union bureaucracy and debatable slogans, YUSU tries valiantly to keep giving all 13,000 students what they want (by no means an easy task), often fighting the University to get it.
Being involved in YUSU’s activities and events is pretty unavoidable unless the idea of spending all of your waking hours in the library floats your boat. Take advantage of all its opportunities in your first year as they’re often free, you’ll have a fair bit of spare time, and if not now then when?