What’s the purpose of Nouse today? That was one of the questions posed by the new, quirky, independent political pamphlet ‘Free Lunch’, which launched their first print publication this week.
In a clever juxtaposition, modern day Nouse was compared to its original editions published in the 1970s. Like many energetic start-up publications, Nouse was then classified as a ‘psychedelic magazine’, positing a political conscience of resistance, protest and criticism. Its original writers, amongst them the current Chancellor Greg Dyke, existed within a ‘collective’ – groups of radical students united through anxieties of nuclear war, global capitalism and participatory democracy. Nouse therefore existed as a means to channel fear, organising the student movement within the cultural maxim of wider revolutionary change.
Today, Nouse is much larger, attempting to appeal to a wide distribution of readers across campus. More importantly, it operates in a cultural context far different from Dyke’s editorship. With the end of the old ‘culture wars’ of the late twentieth century, students now exist in an age where the anxieties of debt and joblessness occupy a more pertinent concern. Universities are no longer the hotbeds of revolution, but rather the ‘finishing schools’ necessary to secure white collar professions and stable incomes. After all, the student socialist international is hardly likely to pay your mortgage.
Furthermore, Nouse’s levy from student contributions to YUSU, brings with it the additional need to appeal to the wider student body. Devoid of the universal causes of the 70’s, student papers across the country find themselves holding different responsibilities- in this case, ensuring the openness of their unions, and holding accountable those in positions of authority. Indeed, while the revolutionary impetus may no longer be prescient in the minds of the student body, concerns regarding how their universities are run are still paramount as ever.
This doesn’t mean that pamphlets like Free Lunch shouldn’t have a role on campus. In fact, freedom from YUSU or NUS regulations allows criticism- not just of old guard publications like Nouse, but also of the nature of universities within contemporary society. In recapturing the sensibilities in which established publications were founded on, independent media allows for new channels to voice opinion and dissent- an undisputable benefit for students.
More importantly, publications like Free Lunch can give the old guard a chance to step back and be reflective. Have traditional media outlets truly represented student causes? Should campus media advocate ethical, social and political causes in an age where student politics is expected to be apolitical? Indeed, if papers like Nouse exist to inform and provide a voice to the collective student body, then should it become more involved with politics?
The publication of Free Lunch adds to the rich history of creative student media embedded within this university. It also comes at a time when new cultural questions have emerged, relating to both the nature of universities and the type of students that study in them. And while the publication presents a refreshing response to these challenges, it also serves to remind established media outlets not to take the student voice for granted.