The reduction in USSU’s block grant from the university is a bitter pill to swallow. It should not be taken lightly and it matters to anyone who uses the bars and shops, all that rely on the advice and representation it provides and anyone who make use of the many clubs and societies on offer.
Of course also at risk are the Union staff, who ensure the smooth running of the Union as successive cohorts come and go and the many casual staff who gain employment during their studies.
We are informed by the university press office that since USSU last year failed to make any money (or as much as it should) pretty drastic budget cuts are in order.
Still this is not the ‘cause’ of our ‘very precarious financial position’ but instead apparently the effect of our own supposed financial ineptitude.
Ineptitude probably describes the university’s own management more aptly, but we digress…
USSU is a service that is and always will be a service for students, run by students. It forms an integral part of university life for many of us at some level and if we were to speak of the ’student experience’ as the university often does, then USSU and the services it provides are an integral component of that.
This is acknowledged by the university to some extent but it counters this by saying that it is only one aspect of that experience, and to that extent must do some belt-tightening, cost-cutting and efficiency savings that are being implemented in all public institutions.
At the same time as the block grant is being cut the university is putting much effort into attracting international students to Sussex (£££) and applications have risen 32 percent on the previous year. So as more and more students will potentially rely on USSU next year we are getting less and less in terms of 5% budget reduction in the next three years.
The problem seems to be that though the university considers the Union to play a part in the ‘student experience’ how much of a part it plays seems mediated by the university in terms of the Unions dependence on the money it receives from them.
That money, like the IMF’s in Greece, comes with big strings attached and places the recipient at the mercy of the benefactors.
But this is our Union and we should not allow this type change and restructuring which would be the inevitable effect of these successive reductions to USSU’s budget.
We are supposed to have our own democratic procedures to protect our integrity but the university can often ride roughshod over these when they see fit.
While many student unions across the country may be content with playing a more nuanced and restricted role on their own campus, we have long had a tradition of having a vibrant diverse and empowering Union.
It is one that is under pressure from university management to cut its costs and orientate itself around a more profitable model.
‘Cuts’ have probably been one of the most dominant themes in the Badger this year and are effectively a threat to the survival of the places where they are implemented.
What we are now witnessing is the process by which cutting spending has become the prevailing ideology at our own institution and nationally.
We must recognize that we will feel the effects of these most painfully unless we reaffirm our rights at every possible stage.
As we wait with dread at the proposed national ‘emergency budget’ (thanks Nick Clegg) our need for a united approach to defending our institutions, our university and our Union from the aggressive and pervasive cuts we face now, and in the near future, is all the more essential