Opinion

The Students’ Union is broken and unrepresentative of students

Image: Shepheard Epstein Hunter

Students’ Unions (SU) are supposed to be representative of students- our SU has this written into their constitution. So why did the SU put out a statement on the sensitive subject of spiking in nightclubs without adequately consulting the students that they represent?

The SU’s statement on spiking was heavily criticised, resulting in a U-turn and the release of a second statement that contradicted the first one. The original statement encouraged students to go to the O2 Academy, as it “is one of the safer venues in Leicester.” While this may be true, spikings still occur at the O2 Academy. This also missed the point of the Big Night In movement, which was to boycott all nightclubs, get all nightclubs and bars to take the issue of spikings seriously, and examine the culture behind this issue.

Encouraging students to go to O2 Academy, which the SU has ties with, is incredibly disingenuous, as it gave the impression that they were doing this because of their own vested interests. The second statement by the SU stated: “We receive no money from AMG (O2), Rockstar or LSP.” This is misleading as the University benefits from these events, and the SU receives grants from the University.

The biggest problem with the first statement was the lack of consultation with relevant groups of students. The SU failed to consult with the students at the University of Leicester who had formed their own Big Night In movement, because they could not “identify that they were Leicester students.” This explanation is completely inadequate, given that I interviewed this group, and quickly confirmed that they are current Leicester students.

The SU also said that they had a group chat with female club captains and social secretaries, with a total of 45 members in the group chat. They had just over 24 hours to provide ideas and feedback: “everyone had a chance to contribute to the plans and the group was supportive of the planned actions.” The emphasis was on the “immediacy” of producing a statement, but surely it is more important to produce a statement that aligns with what students want, especially on such a sensitive subject?

A group chat is certainly not the best way to conduct a consultation, and it seems worrying that the SU thought that this would suffice. The need for a second statement also indicates that this consultation was inadequate. The SU’s claim that the first statement was “guided by students” seems like PR spiel. Instead of admitting that they got it wrong, they seem to be trying to cover themselves from the mess they have created.

Quite why the SU felt able to release a statement on a sensitive issue without consulting the relevant parties is hard to fathom. I have no doubt that all of the elected officers have good intentions, but something seems broken within the system. Until the SU act as true representatives, students will continue to lose out.


Toby Cray is a final-year journalism student and the magazine’s Vice President. You can find him on Twitter here.

You can read Toby’s satirical work on his personal blog.