It’s almost like they want us to write this… In my dreams, it’s all just a joke. A really upsetting joke.
Oh, OUSU. Reliable, dependable OUSU. Once more, good intentions have led you into a total bloody cock-up. Once more, I am compelled to write about it, because nobody else cares enough (and right now even I’m struggling).
Oh, prodigal OUSU.
The agenda for today’s meeting concerns a lot of things. Giving students money to attend a national political demonstration (again). Pledging itself to the environment (again). Being cross about the government (as usual). I’ve given up worrying about these – there is clearly nothing to be done about politicking and posturing in Oxford University Student Union.
But genuine incompetence is still worth flagging up (I tell myself, curled alone over a battered keyboard at 1.18am. Sobbing, if you like). And so: this week, tucked sneakily away into Any Other Business, OUSU is set to hear a statement from its Disabled Students’ Officer, Lindsay Lee. The statement concerns something extremely commendable: OUSU’s first ever “Disability, Sex and Relationships Workshop”, which took place last Saturday.
The part of the workshop involving students lasted four hours:
Not many worthier causes than those. All in all, a fantastic initiative and a fantastic event. But here’s the kicker: it cost £1,222.
Let’s put that into perspective. A drop in the ocean compared to OUSU’s annual income (of nearly £1m – yes, you read that correctly. For what it’s worth, if OUSU wrapped up and just gave every student in Oxford their share, we’d all get a free £45 every year. I could think of worse ways to ease the cost of living crisis.)
But £1,222 is more than twice the annual budget of a liberation campaign. It’d fund almost half of all OUSU’s access work. It’d change the life of a few students in Oxford who are in desperate financial need.
And, in fairness, perhaps it did change lives. Perhaps it did empower disabled students, perhaps it did open new doors for them; perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.
It’s a pity that only eight of them went. Yes – eight students, out of more than 22,000. Not to labour the point, but if you gave each student an eighth of £1,222, they’d all be £153 up. Now, if we were to ask students before they attended a workshop whether they’d rather do that or receive £153, I wonder which they’d choose?
I’d bet they’d take the money. One might say that they were making a bad choice. I’d hope nobody would be so patronising.
And it gets sillier. £500 of the budget was spent on live-captioning the event. A service which exactly no people asked for. It was done to prevent students from having to ask. For what it’s worth, the organiser acknowledged that the captioning was (ahem) expensive. They then berated OUSU for that situation:
I suppose writing a transcript and sending it out afterwards wouldn’t have been accessible enough. Perhaps I just hate disabled people.
Now, excuse me. I have a wall to bang my head against.