Photo Credit: YUSU
Diversity is a trend that all students’ unions across the UK seem keen to demonstrate that they have achieved. This is no different for our very own YUSU, who for years have been trying to push applications for diversity in the election season.
In the last year alone, we have seen several ideas that would allow for more diversity within the Students’ Union such as, the introduction of a Working Class and Social Mobility officer and a debate on whether YUSU should open female only presidential elections. There are many things that YUSU has done or has tried to do through an open discussion with students; at the end of the day, it can obviously be seen that diversity is a trend throughout student unions. But this doesn’t necessarily guarantee more student inclusivity – especially with those who only want fair and legitimate representation.
There are clear examples which show that YUSU is trying to imitate diversity within the Union: the biggest of which can be seen with the permanent sabbatical officers. In the past six committees there have been 30 officers, 20 of which have been white males, leaving us with 10 female elected officials – of which only two were ethnic minorities. From my point of view, there is a counter-argument that YUSU cannot make students apply to run for any positions and that is fair enough: this responsibility shouldn’t fall on YUSU. But my argument is, why have so few ethnic minorities, or anyone really needing representation, felt the need to run within the Students’ Union? Yes, YUSU has been obvious in their strives to try and encourage inclusivity within the student body but this hasn’t always been noticed by those needing the inclusivity. In my opinion, when YUSU first announced whether there should be a Working Class and Social Mobility officer there was a heavy backlash against the introduction of this position – a backlash that even came from those within the benchmark for Working Class. This is because YUSU has taken the opportunity to push increased diversity at the harm of student inclusivity.
The way I see it, movements like the Working Class and Social Mobility officer have isolated those within that field to being pigeonholed into a class or particular identity that has now followed them to a university level. This is my biggest issue with YUSU and diversity; establishments like to show diversity, but it comes at the cost of trivialising actual students’ needs Lack of unfeigned diversity can further be seen in the University debate on all-womens candidate for President. Not only was the event a clear example of reverse sexism against men, it was a parody of the institution of democracy. If a female were to win the presidency that would be great – but to do it at the cost of another gender and a potentially better candidate all for the rationale of representation is a shame. At the end of the day, I don’t want to glaze over the University’s ruse of democracy within our institution. The attempted debate on the “all women’s short list” for YUSU president had a massive disregard for half of the University’s population–which does nothing in an attempt for student satisfaction.
In all my understanding of YUSU, democracy is something I at least thought they would try to preserve, but the Union has thrown the student body yet another laughable curveball – all for the attempted argument of increasing diversity and representation on the campus. If you ask me, YUSU’s push for diversity within its establishment can be seen systematically increasing during the University’s election season. Everyone within the YUSU team from support staff and parttime officers to the permanent sabbatical officers will glorify positions but rarely are there considerations creating a position, group or fund/ trust that could help those in need of representation. Yes, there are some positions that help student inclusivity such as “BAME” but there are distinct flaws within this as well, the biggest of which within the “BAME” representation within the Union, which would typically only represent the “B” within “BAME” of the University, rather than all those who need require representation.
I confess that YUSU has in fact tried to increase diversity for the University (for who’s benefit is up for debate), but a lot of what they have done is superficial and true diversity is about more than just an acknowledgment of its existence. In my book, unions have a responsibility to guarantee student satisfaction, but so far, there is very little proof that they have done more than just try and enhance their persona to the general public.