On Tuesday 18th June, Warwick SU declined to formally support Protect the Public University – Warwick, preferring to give only a muted reiteration of their core principles, the spirit of which are identical to our own.
In their statement they spoke of “free education” and “widening participation” and their belief that “education is a positional, not a market good and should not be commoditized”..
If the SU support our objectives why are they unable to pledge their support? The NUS does not have any specific guidelines that can stop individual student unions from supporting such actions. Far from being constrained, student unions are autonomous bodies that have full control over their individual stances. The UCLU, for example, has issued a statement of full support for the occupation and its stated aims .
The Students’ Union claims it is unable to provide backing because it is “bound by legal constraints”. But, in the past the Union has pledged its support to other “unlawful direct action”, such as the Occupy Warwick movement of Winter 2011. We are driven to ask if this decision is genuinely motivated by legal concerns or if it instead proceeds out of a desire to maintain a good relationship with the University. We argue that such a priority is contrary to the Union’s mandate to represent the student community.
The SU is unwilling to make a stand on its own principles, and therefore is not fit to deliver on their mandated policies. This reinforces our assertion that student representation is merely tokenistic within the university. In the hope of making any changes, the sabbatical officers must keep the University on side. The problem cannot be rectified within the ‘democratic structures’ that exist, as new sabbatical officers would be under the same undemocratic pressures as the current ones. The SU lacks the will to act on their own principles. Therefore the Students’ Union is not the students’ Union.
It is clear that either the relationship between the Students’ Union and the University must change, or we must create new, alternative channels for genuinely representing the will of students. We have created a space for working towards a radical vision of the public university in which students have a genuine democratic relationship with their institution, and have made one of our objectives a review of the university’s governance. These are complex issues, and we have not acted to speak for students, but to open a space in which their marginalized voices may be heard. It is a shame that the Student Union is unwilling to act to secure the rights of its own members.
 This was passed through a General Meeting. This does not change the issue of legality.