The burden in the debate on YUM’s membership of the Union Council is to prove why YUM is principally different to other societies, such that it can’t be represented by the Student Activities Officer. There are two good reasons for this.
The first is that the member-societies of YUM provide accountability and legitimacy to the Union. The media serves as an essential transmission of information between the electorate and the elected. Every comment piece, editorial, website comment and article in the student media holds the Union to account for its actions. YUSU thus gains a legitimacy which extends beyond the mere aggregation of votes in the summer term.
The second is that this accountability function is guaranteed only by autonomy. The media is not financially autonomous, thus it is even more crucial that they have the right to defend their freedoms and operations independently. Where the Union Council deals with issues of media freedom and operation, it is democratically insufficient for a member of the Union to represent those that hold the Union to account. What of the objections? “YUM already receives preferential treatment in Union budgets”. This is irrelevant. If you have to allocate more resources in order to provide an award-winning media that provides accountability to the Union, then so be it. Just because YUM member-societies receive more money than the Caving and Potholing Society does not negate that.
“YUM provides no formal representation or accountability, and should be treated as such”. So what? Even if it is informal, what matters is that it is effective. The hundreds of contributors and commenters to the media, more still the million hits to media websites such as Nouse every year, bear evidence to the fact that these bodies are effective. I haven’t argued that YUM is more effective than formal representation, purely that its effectiveness should be preserved and recognised by a seat on the Council.
“Most motions passed by the Union Council do not affect YUM”. This is also irrelevant. The same could be said of most sitting members, each represents a body of students – some will be affected, some will not. What’s needed is a democratic check to make sure the media have their say when needed.
“It took four months before the media became interested in this”. A fair objection. Even if it is true, it does not increase the validity of the decision. If there is a defensible position for why YUM should not have a seat on the Union Council, I am, regrettably, yet to hear it.