Concrete has revealed the SU is at risk of going bust “in a few years”. Alicia Perez, one of five full-time student officers at Uea(su) told Concrete while discussing the SU’s future: “there’s definitely not a necessity for us to run 250 societies”.
As someone whose university experience has been shaped by the existence of societies, this was extremely disheartening to read. While I am disappointed at Perez’s stance, I am further infuriated that the SU are potentially facing a future which would force the number of available societies to be cut down. I truly believe every single society is needed and deserves its place at UEA. When there is demand for a society, both from the student body, and from the people who are willing to dedicate their time to the running of it, lack of SU funding should not be a barrier they need to worry about.
I’m aware of the arguments against this. Many would dispute the need for niche societies at university, and I’ve heard other students say they feel some people have set up societies merely to reap the benefit of having it on their CV. But there’s a reason why being involved in a society looks fantastic on your CV. Committee members are responsible for keeping their society active and relevant. This means committee members have to market their society, learn how to speak publicly, and interact with a range of people to convince them to become members, and navigate pages of administrative work, from health and safety forms, to everyday email interactions.
Your years at university are probably the last where you’ll have the privilege of being able to choose to dedicate hours of free time to a variety of different hobbies for a low price, and that should be made the most of.
Every society is key, and even if you don’t see the value in it, it could be a lifeline for a lonely student. For example, food-based societies bring together huge communities for a small joining fee. I’ve been on the committee for the Feminist Book Club since my first year, and whilst it’s a small society, our few, but consistent, members have become friends for life and created an incredibly safe and welcoming environment for the discussion of difficult topics. Whilst it’s not for everyone, and potentially considered niche, it’s been life changing for me. Everyone deserves to have access to that life-changing opportunity.