“YUSU have given up almost at the moment” on negotiating with First Bus, stated then YUSU presidential candidate James Durcan during the run-up to the elections in February 2018. As I listened, I found myself agreeing. YUSU needed to push First Bus, and other private partners harder. When Durcan won the election, whilst immensely disappointed, I held out some hope that Durcan would have taken on board the messages from the election campaign and would now have more clout to get YUSU working for its members.
Six months later and this optimism has been punctured. Term hasn’t even started and already there is a sense of déjà vu from previous years. As seen in Nouse recently, First Bus fares have risen in cost. The “better conversation” that Durcan had promised amounted only to stating that “It is extremely disappointing that students will face an increase in bus fares” and criticizing First Bus’ choice to make a “commercial decision”.
YUSU is a Students’ Union. It is supposed to protect its members from “commercial decisions”, not be shocked when they are taken. The management of First Bus have two choices—make more money, or to ‘play nice’. They now know that the worst they will face is “disappointment” from YUSU and because Durcan has tied himself to First Bus with his campaign promises, they can even enjoy a bit of free marketing. Durcan went to great pains to explain what First Bus had done well in the same Nouse piece, the defense of first bus taking up more column space than his criticism.
The problem here is obvious, First Bus is simply too expensive. Whilst feedback can be useful, in this case, the problem is well known. We can worry about tinkering with the finer details once the main problem has been addressed, cost.
The same approach to issues can also be seen in Steph Hayle’s recent post about Unity Health. Like Durcan, Hayle is defending Unity Health while talking about taking feedback on board. The difference here though is that we have reached a crisis point in Unity Health. YUSU, in this case, has been forced to act. Hayle shouldn’t be held accountable for a systemic problem that has plagued Unity for years. As the feedback has been there for years, but only now is being addressed because it’s reached a do or die moment.
It is genuinely saddening to see these same problems being repeated over again. Having met them both, I know that Durcan and Hayle have good intentions. It’s the clunkiness of the YUSU system that means people cannot act, forced to defend their commercial partners by their inability to take radical action to combat them. Once this is done, a new raft of student politicians will come, just as well-intentioned as the last, criticize their predecessors’ inaction only to find themselves similarly encumbered six months later. A never-ending cycle.
A student movement is forming asking for more. In 2018, RON (Re-open nominations) finishing second was a shock. Now students know it’s a genuine option in the YUSU election, with the potential to win the Presidential ballot. There is a real opportunity, either with the threat or reality of RON 2019 to shake YUSU out of its bureaucratic slumber. The signs thus far, however, are that until February at least it will be more of the same.