Sabbatical office: what is it supposed to mean? Its literal definition is a period of paid leave with the presumption of return. On the contrary, all of our current sabbatical team have finished their degrees, and are unlikely to descend upon normal student life again.
Good on them. Nevertheless, to think of sabbatical positions as a career break, as the term denotes, rather than a rung in a tall career ladder, distracts us from the reality of why people run for these positions.
Objectively, I wish them luck. Managing a union is gold dust for the CV – especially in the eyes of Labour’s National Executive Committee. I bear no ill will toward these institutions. However, their function as a lucrative endgame – an ulterior motive, even – for those who represent us, must be brought into question.
The trajectory is clear – and institutional. For instance, the winner of YUSU’s presidency will likely bene t, as our incumbent did, from what our former Comment Editor referred to as “the divine right of college chairs”. After their coronation, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation will continue to train our new “sabbs” in how to make a career out of politics.
If the charity’s honest opinion is that career-driven representatives are more effective than those compelled by single issues, I would love to hear the argument. Of course, career and passion are by no means mutually exclusive. However, the former quality alone seems to be what forges success: former Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy was widely chastised for bringing the NUS, under his presidency, towards a more Blairite policy stance. This was largely against students’ wishes, but you know how the story ended.
Conflicts of interest likes this leave YUSU with a choice: it must either defend its harbouring of career politics, or do its utmost to disrupt the process.