in the last two weeks, the #SaveSUJobs has been a lesson in campaigning, organising and activism; not just for the people involved but for others looking in. I am of course talking about the wider ‘student movement’
In a mere two weeks, a small collection of students and workers in QUBSU managed to build a campaign, call a referendum and return a massive 97% in favour of keeping jobs in the Students Union. This was the best campaign organised in QUBSU without any input from QUBSU, after all it saved 18 jobs!
With the cuts and privatisation to come, all of which will impact on our quality of education, National Unions like NUS-USI, NUS etc. Need to look at this campaign, how it worked, WHY it worked and learn for the struggles ahead, the old approaches of organised lobbies and isolated and infrequent grassroots campaigning are not enough, not fit for purpose.
It’s not often that we in the weird and wonderful realm of Student Politics have a victory to critique and develop for future issues, now we always have issues like EMA which are window dressed as victories, when in reality they are Pyrrhic in nature but not an actual outright victory. Don’t waste this opportunity.
There are many reasons why the campaign was successful, but key reasons lie in the fact it was student led, supported by Trade Unions, it was very active on the ground (the fact that a lot of people knew about the issue already on polling day proves this) It was a determined, strong campaign that utilised peoples’ best talents and worked to an agreed programme.
I’m not one for Nostalgia, or blowing one’s trumpet but I feel the need to stress that when I ran for NUS-USI President, with the aim of completely overhauling how the organisation interacts and represents the student demographic. It was grassroots campaigning on campus issues like with the #SaveSUJobs campaign that I had in mind. Imagine how effective a National Union would be if it campaigned on issues like these students and workers did.
In order for our National Unions to stop being the abstract bodies they are for the overwhelming majority of students; new approaches to campaigning are needed, a strategy that combines lobbying with on the ground organising, a dualist strategy is far more effective campaigning, it also brings students into contact with their national unions in a meaningful way. Students see them operate in their interests. Better than a press release every once in a while in my humble opinion.
In a handful of sentences, it’s simple: National Unions need to build democratically accountable campaigns from the ground up, with total student involvement.
Whilst this post has focused on national unions (perhaps slightly unfairly) it holds a strong lesson for our local Students’ Unions, Students are not always apathetic, Campaigning does not start and end with Social Media and more. We can all learn from this campaign, and for the sake of future issues and campaigns….As students who care, we need to.
*Views expressed are purely my own and don’t reflect the opinions of the #SaveSUJobs campaign