State of the Union

A member of the OUSU executive has resigned this week, slamming the leadership, we report on today’s front page. Another exec member has also resigned, and the future of John Blake, widely tipped as being a potential presidential candidate next term, is uncertain. But should most Cherwell readers care? Probably not. Despite the efforts of William Straw and the move to Bonn Sq, OUSU remains deeply irrelevant to most of our lives. One of the big issues that has exercised the minds of student journalists for generations is the modest profile of the Student Union. In 1996 the Reform Club commissioned some research to find out exactly what the average undergraduate’s view of student representation in Oxford was. Not surprisingly they found that a large proportion of students were almost entirely ignorant of OUSU and those that did have some inkling of what went on in its previous Little Clarendon Street home were often heavily critical. Stripped of its potential to lay on large-scale entz events and genuinely useful facilities for students, OUSU is regarded by many as bureaucratic, distant and pointless. The secession of Oriel in Trinity 2001 added a greater sense of urgency to the ever present obsession of the few dozen or so genuine OUSU supporters out there (the president, his sabbaticals and various hangers-on) to make the student union more ‘relevant’ to students. The solutions that OUSU has come up with over the years are nearly always pretty banal are useful without being particularly eye-catching. Entz events come, go and are often dismal and a plethora of terminally dull handbooks and publications nothing to touch students’ lives Despite the weekly paper, the portfolio of publications and the night bus scheme, OUSU remains extremely marginal the lives of most students. Has its new site in central Oxford provide the cure for the malaise? Hardly. The new site still doesn’t contain a bar, poolroom, canteen or any other amenity students at most universities enjoy as their rights. The major problem for OUSU is not that it is full trotgimps and media whores, but that it is attempting to be centralising force in a university that remains resolutely, defiantly decentralised, or rather, ‘collegiate’. This is a city of lots small campuses – or colleges rather than one monolithic single- campus in the fashion American universities. While students do come together and join forces in certain endeavours (acting, university sport, etc.), there is very little reason why they should feel compelled to interact with other students simply because we are all Oxford. So, please, continue to ignore Toynbee, Blake, the VP-Grads election, and the end of Straw and Sullivan, and enjoy the sun.
ARCHIVE: 3rd Week TT 2003