There’s no doubt that this has been a tricky term for the Union. Our most senior member of staff is stepping down, the kitchens are closed, and student officers, in particular the deputy presidents, have had to work overtime to compensate for understaffing in the office.
Despite this, the Union is standing firm. We’re triaging our issues, so we know what needs to be addressed immediately and what we can take time over. We’re recruiting new staff across all our directorates, with at least one student officer on every interview panel. Through all this, we’re maintaining our commitment to representing the interests of students to improve our collective experience at Imperial. On h-bar, space on campus, UG and PG student satisfaction, halls rent, ethical investment, and so much more, we’re working hard to make sure your voice is heard, and that students come first when decisions are being made at Imperial.
We welcome the help the College is offering us at the moment, and much of it should continue once our immediate issues are resolved. But it’s important that we retain our autonomy, so that when the dust settles, the voice of students hasn’t been weakened. We want to work together as partners resolving a common issue, a frame of reference I know many senior members of staff in the College agree with.
Whatever our challenges are, we must continue to challenge the College; not being oppositional for its own sake, but firmly and constructively raising issues where we don’t agree with what’s being done. Wherever possible, we want to find ways we can collaborate, and make decisions that benefit students, staff, and senior management, without compromising our underlying principles.
On ethical investment, this has meant finding a way to have tough conversations about the consequences of where Imperial puts its money. On halls rent, it has meant going back to the College and telling them that what’s being proposed is unacceptable to students, and that we need to do something different. In both of these cases, though it has caused some discomfort on both sides, we’ve found a way to push forward together: a working group where we have equal footing with staff for the former, and a full negotiation without predetermined confines for the latter.
However, our ability to do anything meaningful as a Union depends largely on the extent to which other students are willing to act. If they don’t feel they can do anything, we can only do whatever our skills in persuasion and the goodwill of individual staff members allows. However, if they’re willing to get involved, our ability to make meaningful change multiplies.
For now, that mainly means spreading the word. Tell a friend about the dispute over halls rent or the push on ethical investment (see the articles on pages X & Y). If you’d like to do more, on rent: fill in the register of interest at tiny.cc/rentregister; on ethical investment: consider making a written submission to email@example.com with your thoughts on where Imperial should and shouldn’t be investing its money.
Together, we have an opportunity to make some real changes to the way Imperial works; I hope that’s something we can take advantage of this year.