I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve moaned about problems I have found with the University, and what I would change if I had the power to do anything about it. Whether its accommodation, welfare, or social activities, everyone has perspectives on university life here at York. I sat back today after about a thirty minute rant, and I wondered why I don’t act on my comments, both good and bad.
Unfortunately there are many students out there just like me who leave their opinions with their friends and don’t use their voice when it really matters. Part of the reason is that the protocol concerning when and where to go with your issues isn’t explicitly stressed. This lack of awareness, amongst other things, has contributed to the problem we now face: less than 20 people turn up to your average YUSU assembly. To put this into context, out of the potential 15,000 students attending the University, less than 30 actually make an effort to attend any one Union assembly on a regular basis. This is a worrying statistic. I doubt, however, that the turnout would be much higher even if advertisement for these events was more carefully decided upon. Some people will rest on their own severe lack of motivation to go to an assembly and demand change.
However the effort required to get in touch with any of the YUSU members, especially due to Kallum Taylor’s vigorous Facebook campaigning, is minimal. We’ve all been guilty of having a moan, and then proceeding to do absolutely nothing about it; however there must be some people out there who do want vent their frustrations, and are still choosing not to attend these events created to give those students a voice.
It seems that the problem may be rooted in students’ doubt over YUSU’s power. Publicity surrounding who the real leaders of YUSU are has been full-on since the start of the year. I’ve seen their offices, get their weekly email and have been bombarded with their many jazzy advertisements.
But what I have heard little about is what they actually have done to address problems that people have. It’s not that I think they don’t do anything, I just don’t know what they’ve done in the way of improving student experience.
Of the four assemblies (Academic, Community, Liberation and Welfare and Student Development) it is always the same attendees: other Yusucrats, student journalists, and society leaders with specific needs. This definitely doesn’t represent your average student, and what their main issues may be. On the YUSU website, assemblies are described as “opportunities to bring together a range of ordinary students as well as elected officers”.
Unfortunately this sort of communication between YUSU and their students isn’t working as desired. The days of mass debates and riveting assemblies may be over, but YUSU does seem be starting to find other more modern ways of getting an array of students opinions. Recently a real life Facebook ‘wall’ was erected in the library’s student buzz area, discussing what the students like and would improve about the library. This is exactly the kind of innovative idea we need, getting people’s opinions across with anonymity and relative ease.
Displaying both aspects students enjoy about the library and areas of constructive criticism, the board is a success in taking people’s opinions to places they will be valued and built upon. It’s dynamic ideas like this that will help YUSU become a more easily accessible body, and hopefully convince students to air their concerns in a more productive manner.
However, more needs to be done to further develop the communication between the students and YUSU. Whether this is scrapping student assemblies all together and putting more effort into successful ideas such as the Facebook wall, or some piecemeal solution, the point still stands that nothing is going to change for students who, like me, are busy ranting in their kitchens, until we are willing to put a little time and effort into expressing our opinions.