f I were to say to you ‘political involvement’, what would you think?
Does the phrase conjure up hours of stale minute-taking tedium in a draughty community hall or seminar room? Last stands over some point of principle with regards a semi-colon between identikit factions, a case study in the narcissism of petty difference?
Or maybe it would conjure up the romance of protest, the joy of seeing plans realised and lives transformed. Friendships forged in the struggle, lively evenings in bars and deep conversations in coffee shops. Splatters from poster paints, illuminating words from respected guests, both seasoned and unseasoned comrades.
At YUSU we want ‘political involvement’ to be the latter. Too often it seems like ‘political involvement’ at York is the former.
A students’ union should be fighting your corner, acting as an exchange where people can meet, share ideas, and plot a course towards a better world. Sadly, and I say this as someone who is highly involved, in the past we have frequently under-performed.
The action we need is more bloody. The Union should be a place of cut and thrust debate and jagged discourse, not bland technocratic jargon and stale “unity”.
The Union is calibrated around the principle that if someone has an idea then they are the best person to see it through. Officers and non-officers like myself should be signposts, message boards; we should seek to match up people who want to do things and fight for them to be given to resources to get those things done.
We should stir up debate, invite speakers onto campus, put ideas out there, provide openings for you guys to hold to account those who make decisions, and share your ideas, and let them know what you think.
To this end I have invited the local police and crime commissioner candidates to my Community assembly to do a hustings, especially for students. I hope to invite other local notables and thinkers to converse with us over the course of the year. And I know that many of my colleagues, both other chairs and the officers are thinking along similar lines.
The Union must never be afraid to get its hands dirty. Our duty as representatives and activists is to get your voice ringing not just through Hes Hall, but the Guildhall and Whitehall. Our generation is not favoured, we won’t be handed anything. We must go out and seize it.
This Union and thousands like it are vehicles for doing so. On 21st November, York shall be marching in London with tens of thousands of other students, stating our case. Marching for education, empowerment and employment.
It is this kind of collective action that achieves results. Here in York we have a vast range of causes to advance: decent accommodation on and off campus, better University services, zero tolerance of sexual harassment, more student say in the University’s governance. We must do it for ourselves. No one else will.
So, if you feel like I do, get politically involved. The Union exists only because York students do. I can promise you a warm welcome.
If there’s anything in particular you’d like to talk to us about, be it an idea for a campaign, making the Union more open and accessible, or something you’d like us to lobby about. Please contact either myself, an officer, or one of other chairs. All of our details are on www.yusu.org. And we all want to be the best reps we can be.
Josh Allen is the Chair of Community Assembly 2012/13 and a Neighbourhood Rep