An explosion of opinions have drizzled through social media this weekend in regards to the controversial rebranding of SUSU. I found myself being unusually vocal about the changes via Facebook comments. The change of image is just that, a very expensive change in image.
Ironically, it seems the students union’s image has actually been tarnished because of this saga. A lot of focus has turned to the aesthetic appearance of the new logo, but what about the fundamentals of SUSU? There’s consensus amongst students that the students’ union has failed to include students in the process of the rebranding, so what can ‘Us.’ do?
Carry on the legacy of SUSU
SUSU wasn’t all bad, in fact there are some things the union did very well. Help and Support provided by the union was impeccable. Services such as the advice centre and peer support are staples which have helped many students. However, it seems that students aren’t actually aware of the services provided by the union.
Did you know that the union provides ‘peer support’?. For students who wish to confide to peers for a shoulder to lean on in times of crisis, this service can be extremely beneficial. Mental health stigma is rife within university culture and obtaining professional help can be terrifying. Before making the decision to see a professional, students can use peer support to see if the dynamic of therapy would help them. The Union has some greats services which is being undermined by it’s lack of awareness.
Democracy, no actual democracy
Democracy has been discussed ferociously this weekend. The union claims to be democratic. I find it hard to believe that this is true when elections are merely popularity contests, whoever has the most viral friendly campaign tends to get elected. Some roles are uncontested so they haven’t been chosen by the electorate. This is why I propose a new system for the union to adopt, although implementation may be hard, it could be very worthwhile. We have course reps, student reps and god knows what other reps. Why don’t we have democratic reps? Now, hear me out.
If each course in every year had two democracy reps across university then we could form a body of representatives. Think of the students as MPs, any students who have queries about university life or any worries can pass these onto representatives. I am aware that academic reps exist but these reps are limited to the academic aspect of university. Who do students turn to when they’re concerned about rodent infestations or feel concerned about the poor choice of foods provided by university catering? Currently nobody. I have searched University of Southampton website trying to find numbers or emails of the relevant people I can speak to, but I have always ultimately failed. A body of representatives (on a ad-hoc basis) provides a portal for students to be more involved in the union and more aware of what is actually happening.
If this weekend is anything to go by, the union needs to rethink it’s strategy on awareness. The majority of students were surprised by the brand change, even though the union conducted research using students (please come forward if you actually exist). Especially considering this process has been gradually happening over the last three years, it’s strange that societies seem to be able to advertise their bake sales better than the union advertises it’s activities. Looking at their Facebook page, many posts go without any engagement, a stark contrast to the University of Southampton’s tell him/tell her(UOSTHTH) Facebook page. The SUSU Facebook page has 22,606 likes whilst THTH has 13,069. If students were provided a platform to discuss their problems then they wouldn’t need to turn to UOSTHTH to vent their frustrations.
I hope this new dawn for the Union isn’t wasted. A new image and a new brand provides a new clean slate to change how the union works. We do want to get involved in student politics; this is a stepping stone for us before we enter the real world. By setting a precedence of political engagement in the student community, this sets up a sense of responsibility to be more engaged in politics in the real world.