Student politics: capturing the shitegeist

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No offence but student politics is a steaming cesspit of self-righteousness: angry twenty-somethings doused in a generous helping of zero fun. As such, it is the perfect breeding ground for largely irrelevant elections to spiral out of control amongst a closed group of head-shaking pinkos, reaching levels of hype that haven’t been seen since the famous 4th generation feminist leader and strong independent woman, Boudica, promised (and failed) to overthrow the Roman Empire in the first century.

Yes that’s right, there’s an election going on at the Durham SU! Oh, you never knew? How strange…

While I am, of course, being facetious, in the light of the current farce that is the SU elections I would like to look at how out of touch student politics has become, not just here at Durham but in education more widely.

As a student currently on my Year Abroad, looking in at the current furor surrounding the SU Sabbatical Elections, I have been amazed and embarrassed by the political goings on in Durham at the moment. In short, a candidate backed by ‘the establishment’ of DU politics (it gets worse) came across poorly in an interview according to The Tab. Amongst friends and supporters, however, the reaction was volcanic, with calls for boycott, a petition to censor what is written in a student publication and an unforgivably poor parody Facebook page. But we didn’t stop there. Oh no. In a bizarre move of ‘playing grown-up’, The Tab decided to retaliate by officially backing another candidate, hoping that when the results are announced it can laud itself in boastful praise and claim that ‘it was The Tab what won it’. What’s more is that the article presented candidate as if she were Nelson Mandela in apartheid South Africa, or Moses standing at the parting of the Red Sea, ready to lead the Jews to the chosen land.

A ridiculous metaphor, I know. However, that is precisely the problem with student politics: it’s ridiculous! And it’s not just in Durham that this delusional bubble exists, things like this are happening in universities across the world, from the ban on yoga at The University of Ottawa, to SUs officially opposing the government’s stance on Trident and the attempts of Oriel College students to rewrite history. University education is dying a slow and painful death and we have student politics, leftist activism and their belief that people actually care, to thank for it.

University is a place to experiment, to be enlightened, to be challenged and tested but also a place to have fun, with few responsibilities and enjoy the last part of your careless and foolish youth before joining the real, grown-up world. Student representatives rarely change anything, so pretending to affect events that happen outside the confines of the university, or treating that which happens within, as a matter of world importance, is utterly pointless.  Therefore, I can’t help but feel that when Kevin, the Greenpeace activist and campaigner for pineapple equality, stands up in the JCR meeting asking that a motion be passed stating that this JCR officially condemns the US Government for its support of Israeli military action, he may have missed the point slightly. After all, JCRs are about organising formals and Newcastle Nights, not recognising the state of Palestine.

The reality for the majority of students is that most of what happens politically at their university, has little to no effect on their education or overall university experience, and nor would they want it to. Shouting down the fashion show for not placing enough emphasis on charity, or an organised night out because it is slightly risqué, or foaming at the mouth over an SU election only makes the majority of the student body shake their head at your folly, before they return to their apathetic lives, fail to engage with your campaign, snigger at how seriously you take yourself and then forget to vote in the upcoming elections.

Have your principles by all means, believe in whatever you like, but please, quit taking yourself so seriously. I’d say you’re ruining it for everyone, but you’re not, you’re ruining it for yourself; stop trying to be an adult and act your age.

Photograph: Durham Students’ Union

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