Who are Students Unions for?

This post is prompted by an email the Students Union sent to all students. As a postgraduate student, I received the email and there was one sentence which I found unprofessional and inappropriate.

“We helped a load of new students arrange their accommodation when the uni f***** up.”

Now leave aside the fact that is seems a bit disrespectful to all the hard working staff at the university; Students Unions have a long tradition of disparaging their universities and taking an adversarial stance.

No, for me the email seems to reveal a rather misplaced sense of their audience (the students). The first is age and position in the outside world, I am a bit older than the average student but there are plenty of mature students of a similar age and older. I don’t really expect an official communication to contain such language (even with the asterisks in place). I would expect more eloquence from a university student. Many of our students are professionals or will shortly be joining a profession where this kind of email would be unacceptable in the workplace. Many of our students will have families and children and once again it just is not appropriate language.

Secondly, there is the cultural consideration and a worrying trend amongst younger students towards a more laddish, sexist culture. I know the email was written by a young, white male and I think it reveals something of their cultural world which is far removed from my world and I suspect far removed from the world that many of our students live in. What would possess someone to send such a sentence to 20,000 individuals from diverse backgrounds? To my mind it is someone steeped in a certain culture where it is acceptable. The kind of culture I do not want to be part of and I would hope the kind of culture many of our students would not want to be part of.

So who does this Student Union think they represent? How was this sentence sanctioned and allowed to be sent out? Does it reveal a particular culture within the SU as I allude to or was it just a genuine mistake? [answers on a postcard please]

Maybe I’m grumpy and middle-aged but I would rather not get an email with the f-word in it and I suspect the same is true for many students.

NB: I am not offended by swearing. I swear myself but I do it in private or with small groups of people I know.

UPDATE: The Union have now apologised for the email. These are the facts.

1. The apology came 10 days after the original email.

2. The apology was qualified, “it (the original email) was written in a way we hoped would spark interest in the AGM and what the Union is up to.”

3. The bulk of the email was about the rearranged AGM.

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