Last Wednesday, the Oxford Student Union, with an overwhelming majority, passed a motion mandating the SU to campaign for a People’s Vote on Brexit. This vote is essentially a second referendum on the outcome of negotiations, with an option to remain in the EU all together.
It is wrong for a body that is funded by the people it claims to represent, to hold political beliefs contrary to the legitimate concerns of some students, even if they may be in the minority. The Student Union is funded by the University, and the University funds the SU in order that it may support the students it represents. Since the University is partially funded by our fees, it would be fair to say that the SU is also funded by us, the students. Therefore, it would be fundamentally wrong for it to campaign for a political belief using funds from students.
This is particularly important when this is an issue people are divided on, and one which is arguably democratically mandated, given the result of the referendum. This is especially the case where both those for and those against Britain’s withdrawal from the EU both have valid arguments for their respective positions. It would be inappropriate for the SU to support one side at the detriment of the other.
Moreover, the job of the SU is to represent us as students specifically, not to campaign on nationwide political issues.
Besides the point that Brexit’s effect on students is just a by-product of government policy, just like many other decisions that the government makes on a daily basis, it is also purely against the views of many students on Brexit. Whilst the general consensus is that students would like to remain in the EU, 29% of young people aged 18-24 voted to Leave back in 2016. This is not a statistically insignificant number, and it is one reason why it would be wrong for the SU to hold such a blanket view on an issue that is not as clear-cut as it is put out to be.
This is one reason why many students feel disengaged from the body that is supposed to represent them. Many people view the SU to be a platform where members can simply push through their own political agendas. This leads to them feeling disenfranchised and disillusioned by the SU, which could otherwise be such a helpful outlet for students to try to raise concerns about issues that affect them on a day to day basis.
There are many issues directly concerning students relating to policies enacted by Oxford University administration, especially those relating to access, mental health, and the significant disparity in costs of studying at Oxford varying so much between colleges. These are local issues directly affecting students at Oxford. Whilst the SU does have campaigns relating to some of these issues, there is certainly more that they could be doing. The SU must leave issues where our effect is likely to be minimal on a national level and polarising on a local level to other institutions fit for that purpose.