The OUSU View: Tom Rutland, OUSU President

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Whilst I don’t share the politics of the ‘Reclaim OUSU’ slate from last term’s elections, I’ve never heard exactly what OUSU is put so well. Every student herein Oxford is a member of OUSU, whether their common room is affiliated or not.

Do Oxford students deserve a better student union? Of course they do. That’s why ran to be OUSU President, and it’s why I’ve made increasing OUSU’s budget my priority for the year. OUSU isn’t the student union that Oxford students deserve because the University has starved it of funding for years: in 2012, the SU’s block grant was less than£400,000 compared to the Russell Group average of £1.6 million.

But the caricature I saw presented of OUSU by proponents of Oriel JCR’s disaffiliation motion didn’t accurately represent the hard work of the full-time and part-time student officers I work with. What has OUSU ever done for students? It has won first year exam resits, the most generous bursaries in the country and Sunday opening hours for the Rad Cam, to name just three things.

Claims that OUSU wasn’t representative of students when it opposed the idea of fees spiralling up towards £16k simply do not stand; OUSU Council’s voting membership is primarily JCR/MCR representatives, and 20 out of 23 JCRs who considered the topic in their own colleges voted to support OUSU’s stance.

Just last week, OUSU provided JCR presidents with a day of training which received an overwhelmingly positive response and has empowered them to do the best job possible for the students in their colleges. We don’t have an antagonistic relationship with JCRs/MCRs – we work closely together to make sure that we can win for students as members of their colleges, and as members of the wider university.

This week, OUSU has advised JCR presidents on their college rent negotiations and made sure that the university will finally allow students who suspend their study (‘rusticate’) to access libraries and the counselling service. The divide between common rooms and OUSU is an artificial one: we’re all students trying to make this university a better place to study at, and this city a better place to live in.

OUSU was built by students protesting against a university that wasn’t listening to them. They recognised that JCRs and MCRs doing a fantastic job in colleges couldn’t take on the university without a central student union uniting them.

Today, it’s still true that students are stronger when they work together – it’s the only way to make sure that we win an academic environment and student experience that lives up to the university’s world class reputation.

OUSU is all of us – so roll up your sleeves and get involved.

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