So I’m back! We write our editorials on the Sunday evening before we go to print, and as I write Dan is currently on a train back from Liverpool, so I get the delightful job of writing my second editorial on the trot. Sorry about that.
Our front page story this issue is a big deal. That much is obvious from the figures that we’re talking about, but also the implications which it will have on students here at UEA, both now and in the future. For the union to be in a situation where it has been forced to find £160,000, when it had been projecting a break-even budget is not only very serious, but also rather embarrassing for the institution. We have been working on this investigation for some months now, and the more that we learnt the more it became clear that this is both a complex issue, but also, that there is a level of trust which has been breached.
Starting off with the crux of this issue, this miscalculation, and that’s exactly what it is, was not due to unforeseen expenditure which the union has had no option to take onto its books, nor was it due to a sudden reduction in revenue from the shop, or the LCR; with more students on campus, these services are as busy as ever, and the union has itself argued that the shop is returning what is close to maximum profits. On this matter, the union has only itself to blame.
Blame is an interesting concept, and one which is of particular interest in this case, because the union, quite understandably, hasn’t been particularly keen on blaming itself for this problem. Rather it has chosen to politicise the issue by launching the “Save Our Union” campaign. Whilst they are right, the union does need saving, the question that needs to be asked, is “from who”? The block grant from the university is small when compared to other unions, and it is disappointing that the university hasn’t accepted its responsibility to us, who after all are the reason why UEA exists in the first place. However, can you blame the university for not wanting to step once more unto the breach when the union has been running a deficit for over five years? The Save our Union campaign not only amounts to a refusal to accept responsibility for their own mistakes, but more importantly it amounts to willful deception.
The documents which formed the core of our investigation were published on a hard to find section of the union website, and date back to September and October 2015. We were forced to use these because they were the most up-to date documents to be published. We struggled to find this information, and we knew what we were looking for, so how many students are actually aware of the specifics of this problem? The union has a commitment to transparency, but unless you have a lot of time on your hands and fancy trawling through the bowels of the union’s website, or happen to sit on union council, this transparency falls flat on its face, as so many students have no real idea of what’s really happening. The Union’s attempt to increase the dialogue it has with students through it’s newsletter NewSu is simply not good enough, and doesn’t actually say anything more than union party line.
Blaming the university not giving the union enough money for the fact that prices have to go up in the shop in order to ensure that the union is able to meet its budgetary commitments, which may affect frontline student services, is only half of the problem. It ignores a number of running issues, and comes across as patronising to students who are left feeling as though their own union doesn’t think they deserve to know the full story.
On a slightly more upbeat note, I’m very pleased to announce that from today, our applications for our senior editor positions (Editor-in-Chief and Deputy Editor) are now open. If you fancy the idea of taking on my job, then now is your chance to investigate what opportunities Concrete could open up for you! Even though all of us on the current team still have three issues left on our tickets, we are opening applications early so that anyone who wants to apply has the opportunity to speak to either Dan or myself about what the role entails, and ask any questions that you might have.
For those of you thinking of applying for Editor-in-Chief, we ask that you create a mockup front page of how you would want Concrete to look should you take over. We understand that most people don’t have access to Adobe InDesign or know they’re way around such a programe, so please feel free to drop us an email and we can help you through using the software. All of the details about the application, including what you need to submit and when, are on our website, so do go and check it out!