Our illustrious student union is not always the most accessible entity to students. Generally speaking, a very small section of students on campus have a disproportionate effect on the organization. To take but one example, the Socialist Society is highly effective in raising awareness for its issues, and often succeeds in shaping Union policy.
Two ingredients play into distinguishing their success from others’ failures. Without a doubt, apathy is the most immediate factor in explaining why some groups achieve so much more than others. Without a certain amount of time, energy, and will, accomplishing anything is out of the question.
The other component is a mixture between knowledge and proficiency. Simply having the will and the time to fight for a cause is hardly sufficient when dealing with an organization which is nowhere near as transparent as it could be.
As one of the few neutral groups on campus which frequently engages with YUSU in various ways, Think Tank has often directly influenced the union. Think Tank has a long history of providing a platform to disenfranchised groups, and is the nation’s leader in non-academic student research. Recommendations produced by our research and consultation teams are routinely implemented by the University, Student Union, and Colleges, while also featured in local and national press.
As we strongly believe that a functioning, accountable and democratic union requires much broader student input than is currently the case, here are Think Tank’s recommendations for those who wish to make their voice heard on campus without standing for office.
Join or found a campaign group. If you have a single issue or cause which will require a certain amount of manpower, this is the way forward. A notable example is last year’s BDS Campaign to boycott goods produced in illegal Israeli settlements. The campaign was hugely successful and resulted in a referendum vote in their favor.
Found a Society
As long as it is not a single issue society or infringing on an already existing society’s cause, you have good chances to get ratified. A ratified society offers you access to room booking, funding from YUSU, and the ability to easily host events or invite speakers. However, you may also be constrained, as you will be required to abide by the Union’s societies code of conduct. On occasion, sluggish bureaucracy and copious amounts of paperwork may require some tenacity, but this affects some societies more than others.
Submit a Policy Proposal
Policy proposals are diverse in nature, ranging from 5p plastic bag charges at YUSUSHOP to fighting the government’s PREVENT policy. The process is designed to be as simple as possible, just send an email to [email protected] , briefly outlining what you would like to change or implement. No knowledge of YUSU’s by-laws is required, the feasibility will be assessed by YUSU’s support staff. You may be asked to clarify a few details, but the majority of the work does not fall to you. Once submitted, your proposal will be consulted on by various student groups, to see a full step by step guide to the policy process click here.
Johannes Huber is the former Head of Research at York Student Think Tank