YUSU slammed by society chairs

The YUSU Sabbs respond to claims of poor organisation and ineffective publicity for events

Student societies have hit out at YUSU, branding the Fresher’s and Refresher’s fairs as poorly managaged, while figures reveal a marked decrease in their total membership.

This year’s Freshers’ Fair saw the introduction of a bar code scheme, designed to simplify membership payments by allowing students to scan the bar codes of different societies and then pay membership fees online.


Chris West, the 2012-2013 YUSU Activities Officer, implemented the system and was hopeful for a “10 to 20 per cent increase in society memberships” as a result of the scheme and said that he felt “confident in the new system”.

Many societies were unhappy with the scheme, with Charlie Kingsbury, Chair of the University of York Liberal Democrats describing it as a “total nightmare”.

He said: “We had to spend a lot of time signing people up who hadn’t paid on the day, either because they’d forgotten or the pay points were too busy, which is time we could’ve spent developing in other ways.

“The Lib Dems’ society membership is up this year thanks to our hard work, but I wouldn’t be surprised if society membership generally has fallen because of barcodes. YUSU should be helping societies grow, not hindering their development with this terrible system.”

In fact YUSU data shows a decrease in total society membership of nearly 3000 since last year, from 18,942 in June 2013 to 16,019 currently. This is despite an increase in student numbers from 14,918 to 15,253. These figures include both paid and unpaid membership.

Kingsbury also criticised the YUSU Refreshers’ Fair, which was held in Week 2 of this term. He told Nouse: “The event itself was an utter waste of time. The publicity was almost nonexistent, and hardly anyone turned up.

“Even when YUSU did get around to publicising it with a sign outside, a room full of politics isn’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea. Segregating political societies from the rest will never work.”

William Hornett, Chair of the Socialist Society, echoed these views, saying: “The Refreshers’ Fair was awfully organised. There was effectively zero publicity for any Refreshers’ Fair events and no information about which societies were around on which days.

“As well as the total lack of publicity, the separation of political, sports and other societies into different days was extremely detrimental to political societies especially. I’m pretty sure in the four hours I was at the stall, I only saw two people walk into the room in interest.

“The conjunction of these two problems meant the Refreshers’ Fair was probably one of the worst events I’ve ever seen organised, at least by YUSU.”

Many societies have had communication problems with YUSU outside of Freshers’ and Refreshers’ Fairs, with the History Society facing issues when confirming finance for their trip to Sofia.

Chair Elli Hatherell commented on Twitter, “The past week has made me completely lose faith in @yorkunisu- serious transparency and effectiveness issues need to be addressed!”

Hornett also told Nouse, “in general getting a hold of YUSU figures is difficult”.

Anna McGivern, YUSU Activities Officer, recently acknowledged these complaints in a blog post on the YUSU website saying “I know last term I got pretty slow on the emails.

“This job is demanding, and I love that and as I’ve already said a few times now I’m sorry about last term or if I drop the ball on anything.”

However, she also added: “A little reminder to the very small number of you who think that because you’ve not heard from me or because you don’t like what you’ve heard that being rude is the answer. It is not.”

McGivern and Kallum Taylor, YUSU President, both also cited the breakdown of a University server as one of the reasons for the recent lack of communication. This has prevented the YUSU weekly information email from being sent.

McGivern defended the bar code system, saying: “From my point of view, Chris’ idea makes a lot of sense. Moving to online payments for societies is something lots of SUs have already done. The issues I found to come out of the Freshers’ Fair feedback that I recorded was that there was too little information too late. I completely agree and put this down to planning being across the summer.”

She also defended the controversial decision to leave all pre-existing societies out of the Refreshers’ Fair: “The Refreshers Fair on Friday of Week 2 went really well for new societies.

“Telling everyone the plan to give refreshers fair over to new societies should have been done sooner. However when I did email societies the consensus I got back was that this was a good move.”

Taylor also commented on the recent criticisms of the Union: “YUSU have more societies per head than pretty much any other SU in the UK – and this is a great thing which we should celebrate more. However, it does bring with it incredibly large demands on funds, staff and officer time, and space.

“The Refreshers’ Fair and week could have worked better and clearly we need to address this by involving as many stakeholders as possible – if a review of it doesn’t involve those who were actively in it then it’s a review simply not worth doing. It’s always going to be a harder ‘sell’ than the autumn freshers fair though, to students, and the commercial partners we get to come along with all their freebies.

“One thing that stands out as a sore point in my mind was the part-time officer and political societies fair, which was an embarrassment. You can’t just have people sat at tables in the YourSpace common room and just expect it to work.

“We’ve recently made some structural and staff changes to YUSU and we hope that this should see provide the much needed improvement in the service level given to our societies.”


  1. 11 Feb ’14 at 1:09 pm

    Gruntled Committe Member

    For Anna to simply say she’s ‘dropped the ball’ for a bit and meekly and half-heartedly apologize simply isn’t good enough.

    She stood for this role less than 12 months ago and is paid over £16k a year to be our representative, Re-freshers was a sham, the barcode system has proven to be seriously flawed and the lack of communication is frustrating beyond words

    She hasn’t apologized properly to anybody, and has thrown the toys out of the pram when she has received real and legitimate complaints, it simply isn’t good enough.

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  2. 11 Feb ’14 at 1:46 pm

    Grumpy Committee Chair

    Maybe the university should stop paying for their senior staff’s limousine travel service and actually invest a little more into their student activities, or just hire some more IT staff..

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  3. Have to agree re lack of communication.

    I’m involved with a potential society, who applied for ratification back in November. We’ve still not received a response, despite providing regular reminders.

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  4. 11 Feb ’14 at 2:03 pm

    Angry Committee Secretary

    The society I help run in 2012 managed to get 35 members signed up on Fresher’s Day but despite a better and more organised promotion this year we managed 8 (half of which paid us in cash on the day which was technically banned from happening but we did it anyway or else we wouldn’t have got any members).

    No one understood how the barcode system worked, could be bothered to use it or cared about dealing with it. Most Freshers I spoke to barely even knew it existed. It completely took away the ability of people to pay immediately on the spot when they were actually interested in your society and was just generally a confused waste of time.

    It ruined Fresher’s Fair for my society and cost us a lot of time and money, Anna needs to openly apologise and YUSU needs to commit to never using the system again.

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  5. 11 Feb ’14 at 2:08 pm

    New Generation Society

    “A little reminder to the very small number of you who think that because you’ve not heard from me or because you don’t like what you’ve heard that being rude is the answer. It is not.”


    We were relying on refreshers’ fair to relaunch the society from scratch after we’d tweaked a few things post-AGM- degree work getting in the way’d stopped the committee being able to do much for a few months, so we were completely reliant on the chance of refreshers’ fair to pull in some new members to keep the society alive.

    You know what? *We didn’t even get a fucking invitation*.

    The first thing we heard about it was a string of despairing tweets from the poor bastards sat in YourSpace on the Pol/Deb/Cam day referencing the fact that they’d had less than ten people come into the room all bloody day.

    If we’re rude, it’s because this foul-up’s more or less crippled any chance we had to get our society back on its feet.

    Cheers, like.

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  6. Does anyone want to start an Age of Empires 2 society for next year? I need something to put on my CV. Seriously though there’s this file someone made where the game works straight away in computer rooms for multiplayer games.

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  7. 11 Feb ’14 at 2:40 pm

    Still In Limbo

    Would now be a good time to point out that Anna is the chair of the National Student Fundraising Association? I wonder how much of her time is spent doing that instead of her York job…

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  8. Is the Activities Officer Post cursed in the same way Defense Against the Darks Arts is in Harry Potter?

    On paper, it’s such an easy job but literally everyone makes a hash of it, and everyone seems to only last one year.

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  9. 11 Feb ’14 at 3:20 pm

    Miffed Society Chair

    The publicity for these two ReFreshers Fairs was abysmal. In an email received on 15th January 2014 from *name removed by moderator to protect identity* described the session which took place on Tuesday 14th as a “complete disaster.” Until Wednesday 15th January, when the union made a half-hearted Facebook event with only 60 guests, YUSU appeared to make no attempt to promote this event on our behalf. The publicity that did occur, however limited, contained absolutely no mention of ‘campaigning societies’. We refer to both the YUSU 2014 Wall Planner and the “YUSU Week 2 is…Re-Freshers 2014” poster.

    The total of twelve hours spent in YUSU YourSpace with several members of each of our society in attendance has been a complete waste of time.

    We require an explanation as to why there existed such a lack of organisation, publicity and general effort on the part of the union for this event. We feel let down by these sessions and are anxious that such events do not occur again in the future.

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  10. 11 Feb ’14 at 5:36 pm

    Power in the hands of the students?

    A frequently AWOL Sabb, who seems obsessed with doing things because other universities do them slams the people who elected her for darring to complain.

    Keep it classy, keep it entitled Anna.

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  11. The fact that none of these comments have been down-voted shows the strength and unity of student opinion on this. Well done Charlie and William for speaking out.

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  12. 11 Feb ’14 at 6:49 pm

    Disappointed ex-committee member

    Before I started my year as a committee member I assumed that YUSU’s purpose was to aid students. At the end of my year I had learned that YUSU and particularly the Activities Officer is there to hinder students at every stage. Things went well when YUSU left us alone to do what years of different committees had learned worked best instead of their intervening in things they know nothing about.

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  13. 11 Feb ’14 at 11:18 pm

    Anonymous Onlooker

    Wouldn’t be surprised if socialist and liberal societies’ grant/funding gets cut next year to try and silence societies which try to helpfully point out some issues. Never realised being helpful was considered rude, but well done Charlie and William.

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  14. 12 Feb ’14 at 2:09 am

    Chair of Seats

    We’ve done most of our promotion and recruitment by social media, word-of-mouth and promotion of our own events, and are starting to wonder what part YUSU actually plays in our events, there’ve been problems with the IT and communication (amongst many other things) from the start, and in all honestly i sometimes wonder what actual benefit we ever gained from ratification.

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  15. 12 Feb ’14 at 4:11 pm

    Disparing Committe Member.

    We’re a society that runs all our own campaigns, does all our own promotion, recruit members single handedly, we don’t charge for membership so we don’t even get funding from YUSU.

    We’re happy to work with YUSU when we’re able to, and we have done (often fruitfully) in the past. But our experience with the activities officer and YUSU training has been wholly negative.

    As everyone else has said, the barcode system was a disaster. Most Freshers didn’t know about it, the ones that did didn’t know where the checkouts were and anybody in second or third year didn’t have a fucking clue about it. The only reason why it didn’t damage our membership too much is because we are free to join.

    The YUSU training this year was drawn out and I learnt nothing from it and they were mandatory to attend; as a dedicated Committe member I put so much effort into the society am I a part of, I love every second of it, even when it gets in the way of my degree.
    But the Activities related staff at YUSU, sabb or otherwise, throw it all back into your face with the most meaningless nonsense bureaucratic trash know to humanity. From form filling to ‘training’; the re-ratification process is ridiculously drawn out too.

    I am so glad that is now being reported on and I remain convinced that the current way the Activities post is organized is fundamentally flawed. A better sabb would certainly help because the last two have been bloody terrible; but a entire organization, from the top all the way down is needed so that YUSU works to benefit societies, not the other way around.

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  16. 13 Feb ’14 at 2:40 pm

    Upset Committee member

    I agree with all the comments above. The Student Union is supposed to do what is best for the students not for them. It’s very irritating to sit in a YUSU meeting and have them tell you that they have put in 50 staff hours in a week for this. You should. you get paid for it. Committee members put as much effort if not more whilst doing a degree. So if they are annoyed and rude, they are annoyed and rude for a pretty fucking good reason.

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  17. 13 Feb ’14 at 3:06 pm

    time for a new officer?

    Pretty slow on the emails? Anna’s obviously not capable enough/not committed of being the officer in charge. She should step down, and get a new, more capable (and definitely more responsible) person to take her place.

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  18. Apparently there was a refreshers fair … ?

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  19. Best comment of all of them on here mate! Absolutely spot on.

    In all fairness though it seems to be a very difficult job, does not excuse the fuck-ups but it seems like one of the most difficult and thankless job. It is the ultimate poisoned chalice, since when you have so many societies you are bound to piss some of them off. Not to mention the fact that there is also RAG and Volunteering, I think this is not a job for the faint-hearted.

    That being said re-freshers was a complete train wreck and should never be repeated in the same way. Whatever happened to just having one re-freshers fair? Also the stats about new societies and the barcodes seemed very strange and worrying. Hopefully someone will take it on board in YUSU. Perhaps we need more than one officer to do this? RAG and Volunteering all have PTOs, is there any reason why Societies do not have one? At worst it would just be nothing new and at best it could really help

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    • You’re either Kallum or the best imitation of him that I’ve ever read.

      You’re either satire or one of the many shameless YUSU hacks that exist.

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  20. @ @I Wonder…

    J’accuse Kallum Taylor.

    Decent of you to show up I guess.

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  21. 13 Feb ’14 at 6:19 pm

    Deng Xiaopeng

    YUSU leaders weak and powerless

    Zou Enlai once told me same problem with Chang Kai Shek. Outcome: he run away and he control China.

    Revolution can be secured by this again. Taylor is Chang, inflation, strike and learn art of war. We must act, we must be strong but collectively we can purge the cadres and install great leader on your opium trading island

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  22. 14 Feb ’14 at 12:41 pm



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  23. *Verbose
    *Taking an age to get to the point
    *Pseudo-critical of YUSU
    *Willing to hang a comrade out to dry, whilst also praising them
    *”matey” pretensions and lexis, which is actually really annoying
    *at once ingratiating and wounded, kind of like if Uriah Heap had studied at the university of “True Lad” for a bit?

    Yeah, it might not be Kallum. But it sure as fuck reads like him.

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  24. From Anna’s profile

    “This year I aim to make it easier to get involved in all the things we have going on at York, help the RAG and Volunteering Officers (and others) carry out their plans both on and off campus and hopefully help you all realise the skills you develop here and now are what will get you that dream job in the future.”


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