A war of words has erupted between senior officials of the Oxford University Students’ Union (OUSU) over a controversial partnership with another student society.
The row came ahead of a motion that will be considered today at OUSU Council, which if passed would cement the student union’s relationship with The Oxford Hub (OxHub); a student-run organisation focused on the promotion of charitable activity and social enterprise.
The “Memorandum of Understanding” would give OxHub a range of benefits, including advertising space in The Oxford Student, three stalls at the Freshers’ Fair and various other promotional opportunities, all free of charge. In return, the OUSU logo would be placed on OxHub publications.
The terms of the deal have been condemned by members of the OUSU Executive.
Among the critics was Common Room Liaison Officer, Jack Matthews, who claimed the Student Union would be giving up funding and influence for little in return.
“One of the most glaring faults with the memorandum is the inequality between what OUSU gets, and what it is giving away,” he said.
Matthews added that he was also concerned by the future implications of the proposal, which could lead to the Student Union supporting OxHub financially.
“OUSU will be giving all of this away for free, at a time of national financial concern, and when we are one of the poorest student unions in the country.
“We should be supporting students directly – not hiring in others to do it instead.”
There were also concerns that the new link-up could overlap with existing OUSU services. The Student Union already has a charities campaign in Oxford RAG, but although it carries out similar activities to OxHub, it will not be involved in the new plans.
Further doubts were expressed by OUSU Environment and Ethics officer, Daniel Lowe, who admitted he had “strong reservations” that common rooms would be angered by the costs involved.
He said, “In a joint common room meeting two weeks ago at Lincoln College, concerns were expressed about the amount that OUSU spends in its charities portfolio, and to be adding to this expenditure may be unwise.”
Others were keen to defend the proposed partnership however, with OxHub President Jake Leeper eager to stress that the link would see benefits for both parties.
He said, “The aim of this partnership is to formalise our productive relationship and ensure we are making the most efficient use of our resources in providing a service to students and raising the charitable profile at Oxford University.
“OUSU is the political voice on charitable activity, whilst Oxford Hub facilitates charitable activity.”
His thoughts were echoed by Jack Wellby, OUSU Vice-President (Charities and Communities), who said the criticism from his colleagues was completely unwarranted.
“The Oxford Hub is precisely the sort of thing the Student Union should be supporting,” he said. “I know of no student union that makes money from encouraging students to volunteer – this is a service to offer not a revenue stream.
“The argument about lost revenue goes both ways – The Oxford Hub are supporting OUSU in spaces where a commercial logo could be placed as they recognise the benefits of being supported by the Student Union.”