UCLU? ULU’s the Real Problem

Yisroel Greenberg makes the case for UCL to ditch Malet Place

Max Titmuss’ article arguing for leaving UCLU is useful because he’s clearly someone who rejects the Union out of familiarity, rather than ignorance. I tend to agree with him that student unions are hopelessly out of touch with the things that matter to their members. I don’t reach quite the same conclusions as him, though, and I remain a member of UCLU for two reasons.

There will be occasions when you need someone to stand up for your interests

Firstly, I think there will always be occasions when you need someone to stand up for your interests on campus. A personal example is that last year, the only kosher café in walking distance from UCL closed, making it harder for Jewish students like me to stay late on campus.

Towards the end of the year, the Union adopted a policy that it ought to provide kosher and halal food in its cafes, with obvious benefits. So although a lot of what the Union does is pointless, there are some good things – it’s the kind of thing that you don’t appreciate when you have it, but if it went you would eventually miss it.

Secondly, leaving aside all the politics at the Union, the services they provide are fantastic. I’m involved with several societies, so I know first-hand the level of money and support provided to all 180-odd.

The fact that we’re able to do pursue so many different interests is, for me, one of the most rewarding things about university, and I’m certainly indebted to the Union for that.

So I remain a member of UCLU. I certainly have no patience for politics, and I’ll admit to a level of glee when their Welcome Members Meeting failed to reach quorum yet again (what it will take for those involved to realise that their agenda is utterly boring to most of us, I don’t know).

UCLU has a purpose beyond acting as a breeding ground for left-wing politicians

But UCLU has a purpose far beyond acting as a breeding ground for left-wing politicians. Where Max should have directed his ire is at ULU.

Many UCL students don’t even realise they’re eligible for membership in the University of London Union too, and even fewer take it out. What’s more, their democratic processes and structure are even more obscure – I’m reasonably “engaged” in campus politics, and I have absolutely no idea when or where ULU policy is set, let alone who is allowed to vote.

Somehow, we remain affiliated to them. That might not sound like a problem to you, until you realise that they use their membership numbers as proof of their importance. It’s less than two years since the cringeworthy remarks of Claire Solomon, President at the time, on national television after the riot at Millbank Tower.

The anti-tuition fees protest turned violent when it passed the Conservative’s headquarters

For those of you who don’t remember, an anti-tuition fees protest turned violent when it passed the Conservative Party headquarters. People swarmed the building, smashing windows but Solomon, defended the destruction, stating that no-one had broken in because “the door was open.” That’s not the only time that we, as London students, have had our name put to absurd accusations made in the name of politics by our supposed representatives at ULU.

Neither of the reasons I gave above for tolerating the Union apply to ULU. The first might possibly hold for students at smaller colleges, with less well-organised unions, but UCLU is good at what it does, and I’ve never found a single thing that ULU is better placed to deal with – that is, ignoring national or international politics, which isn’t their job anyway. As for the second, there are only 40 societies at ULU, which is less than a quarter of what we have.

UCLU does, despite all the nonsense it puts us through, add value to our time at university. ULU doesn’t. Let’s disaffiliate from them, and stop allowing our names to be used by people playing politics.