Students’ Representative Council fails to represent students

This week’s Student Newspaper (no link yet unfortunately) reports that Edinburgh University Students’ Association is getting well involved in the upcoming Rectorial election. Are they taking measures to try and boost turnout? Or perhaps they’ll have a wee awareness campaign to tell people what the hell a Rector actually does?

Actually, they are campaigning against one of the candidates. The one that is the most popular amongst students by far. It is student representation at its best.

After a heated debate the motion was passed with a majority of 14 to eight in what was a poorly attended vote.

EUSA’s President, Ruth Cameron, has quite a high profile, if you read the student papers that is. One writer in this week’s Student referred to her (sarcastically, although it wouldn’t surprise me if somebody started doing it for real soon) as our Glorious Leader. I wonder if she actually does any studenty stuff (studying for instance (yeah, seriously!)), because in the past few years she has edited both the independent Student Newspaper and EUSA’s own propaganda rag, Hype. And now she’s taking a proper year out to tell all the students what to think. She must really want to be either a journalist or a politician. Therefore she must be avoided.

The Students’ Representative Council has decided to campaign against Boris Johnson. Apparently it was an emergency motion, and “the first time EUSA has taken such a position since 1851.”

Why was it an emergency motion? Well, duh, it’s because Boris Johnson is, like, such a Tory, and students should only vote for lefties — it’s the law. Ruth Cameron has thrown her weight behind Green MSP Mark Ballard since the very beginning, when Ballard was the first confirmed candidate. Now that Boris Johnson has swanned in, it looks like Ballard is going to lose. So now the SRC has decided to use its power to campaign against Johnson using EUSA resources. Isn’t that a bit like Labour using taxpayers’ money to fund their General Election campaign?

It stinks. It is fine for the SRC members to hold and express their own opinions as to who they would prefer to have as Rector. Cameron’s views have been pretty clear from the outset, and was one of those who were protesting at the event last week where Boris Johnson got a pint spilled over him by the Socialist Society for being a “top-up Tory” (hmm, which party voted in top-up fees again?). That expression of her views is legitimate. But it has become official EUSA policy to oppose one of the candidates — and the one who seems to be by far the most popular at that. In what way is that “representing” the students?

EUSA are attempting to disguise this by saying that they aren’t campaigning against Boris Johnson, just against his policy in favour of top-up fees (an issue that doesn’t affect Scotland anyway). But if that’s the case, why don’t they just campaign against top-up fees instead of butting their nose into the Rectorial election? Never mind the fact that Boris Johnson would not be able to do anything about top-up fees if he became Rector. Something tells me that the fact that he is the Shadow Minister for Higher Education gives him slightly more influence in this field than the post of Edinburgh University Rector would.

If the idea of this campaign is to dissuade people from voting for Boris Johnson, I’m afraid the tactic hasn’t worked on me. Magnus Linklater will be my first choice, as he has been for a while now. Boris Johnson will probably be second. Mark Ballard could well be heading for the bottom of the pile though…


  1. The thing I learnt during my undergrad degree was, no matter how big the issue, or how keenly felt it is amongst the student body, no-one really gives a shite about student politics, not even the student politicians themselves; they always end up bickering over nothing and trying to get their name in the press. I remember dozens of issues that were raised and eventually dropped by Cambridge’s Student Union (including a tortuous, petty, one-upmanship-ridden three-hour emergency debate about September 11th that launched all kinds of petty spats) that had little to do with principle and everything to do with publicity; I remember many members of CUSU council resigning en masse and falling out some time in 2001-02, although I’m buggered if I can remember what the issue was (some minor voting irregularity, maybe), but it got plenty of chat, so all concerned were happy.

    Alas, I only learnt this sorry fact by the time I graudated with my BA, wasting years of my own on trying to be a student politician myself. My advice is to stop worrying – the worst that any student union leader can do is argue with everyone for a year, then piss off. As for Ruth Cameron, I vaguely remember seeing her name while on campus when in Edinburgh doing my Master’s last year but in all honesty she’s a non-entity right now; anything she does or says while EUSA President will be soon forgotten. If she becomes a New Labour apparatchik (like many student union leaders), then she’ll be a danger to us all, but for the moment she is mostly harmless.

    As for Bozza, he’ll win the Rector’s post anyway, hands down.

  2. And Ruth Cameron has just been confirmed as running as a Green MSP for the Lothians.

    Great, now she can (potentially) waste my taxes in the wee pretendy parliament as well as annoy the hell out of me.