OUSU doesn’t need a fresh start: it needs to regain students’ support

 

Last term wasn’t the best for OUSU: disaffiliations, an (arguably) botched referendum campaign and a general feeling of dissatisfaction in many quarters of the student body led many to question the Student Union’s very existence.

But let’s get things in perspective.

The last year also saw a number of refreshing changes: a profit in our budget (reversing a financial crisis from the year before), greater engagement in our campaigns, and a restructuring that made the union more accessible and efficient.

OUSU has gone through its fair share of ‘crises’ in its 43-year history; those of Trinity 2007 weren’t the first and they probably won’t be the last. While Trinity can teach us one lesson – that talk of “change” and “reform” can only go on for so long – OUSU’s history teaches us that we are most strong when we engage with common rooms, support students, and deliver real results.

I was asked to write about how I hoped to make a “fresh start” in OUSU this year. In many ways, it’s not about a fresh start: organisations that constantly try to reinvent themselves don’t get that much done. It’s more about building on the good things that have been done over the recent years and learning from the mistakes we’ve made.

To start off we’ll be launching a major publicity campaign, beginning at Freshers’ Fair this week and carrying on through the term, that won’t just be talking about OUSU’s structures, policies or Council, but about the things we’ve been campaigning on and the real results we’ve delivered for students.

We’ll be talking about the fact that the Safety Bus is back for the first time in two years, making sure that students get home safely from our ZOO club nights (and any other nights, for that matter!).

We’ll be talking about our Student Advice Service and how we’re continuing to provide a free, impartial and confidential listening service to support Oxford Students; providing advice when things don’t go quite as planned.

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And we’ll be talking about our successful campaign, which will hopefully come to fruition this year, to persuade the University to adopt a Socially Responsible Investment policy and make sure that the money used to fund our education is invested ethically.

But this can’t be a one-way conversation. Fundamentally, we want to be talking about the issues and concerns that matter most to you. You can email us on telluswhatyouthink@ousu.org and let us know what your top priorities are.

It’s important to remember that this is your Union. The policies we adopt, the views we represent and the issues we campaign on are all driven by JCRs, MCRs, SUs and students from across the University. In Sixth Week, we’ll be electing not only the full time officers for next year, but also the 13 member OUSU Executive who begin their term of office in Hilary Term; current students who run the Student Union and play a major part in shaping the priorities and direction of the organisation. We want as many people as possible to get involved to lead our campaigns and to represent students. Recently, I heard one JCR President say that participation is the key to invigorating colleges and Common Rooms. He couldn’t be more right and the same goes for OUSU and the University. The next year is going to be an exciting and important one but only with your energy, enthusiasm and involvement.