Posted on Mon 02 Jul 2012 at 21:24 by Christopher Luck
I’ve been a Sabb for 2 years now, at Warwick for 5 and heavily involved in the SU for 4 (I know, urgent need to get a life right?!). The weird thing about that time for me though is that I’ve spent a lot of it with my mouth shut. I started out all those years ago in something that was called ‘Elections Group’ where my job was to deliver Union elections and I had to stay totally impartial, and whilst not having a public opinion was tough at first, it’s since proved a habit I struggle to get out of.
But with less than a month to go and with my projects winding down it’s probably time I got some stuff off my chest and with that in mind I want to make two very quick points, about ‘campaigning’ and ‘ethics’.
I can feel a sniper trained on me for what I’m about to say…
The standard approaches to student campaigning don’t work on me. I was always a pretty average student: I had part-time jobs, I was involved in societies, I lived on and then off-campus and I have always cared very much about student issues. I’m against the fee rise, I try and recycle, I’m pro-equal rights and like to think I go out of my way to help people; but a march, placard, campsite or megaphone will never work on me. An activist (who is probably loading the rifle now…) will tell me that other more mundane methods simply don’t work and that they have no choice but to take to the streets and whilst that may appeal to some, it doesn’t appeal to all. My message? If you’re a campaigner try more than one approach – learn from viral marketing campaigns, try the reasonable approach as well and you might mobilise a student movement which has the potential to win on any issue if it is strong in number and intelligent in approach.
Well, I’ve started writing this now *looks out for sniper over shoulder*
The word ethical really, really bugs me. The reason? I genuinely don’t understand how it is ‘ethical’ to impose one person’s ethics on another. Facing the Bacardi issue head on, I can understand why some people don’t want to drink it (either because they don’t like rum or due to personal ethics) and I can understand why they want us to sell an alternative that they feel more comfortable with. I get that and I also understand the theory that if enough people boycott a product then the company could be forced to reconsider unethical practices in order to remain profitable. But outright banning a product in a Students’ Union isn’t the way to win that battle – it just distracts from the actual issue in favour of people talking about who has ‘power’. Absolutely raise awareness of issues, absolutely introduce alternative products but don’t impose boycotts until you’ve at least tried to win over hearts and minds – that way you’re at least not trampling on other people’s personal ethics.
As I dodge bullets left, right and centre I hope I’ve made you think. Many of you may completely disagree with me and that’s fine, a few may agree but all I ask is that you take the time to think – what would convince you to get involved and how can the student movement better approach issues such as fees, buses, price and quality? It’s clear our current approach isn’t right, but what is?