12 December 2012 Today I stopped by my former university's students union for what i suspect will be the last time. It was over a decade ago I first stepped into this building, and a chance meeting of an acquaintance who has been around longer than most made me think about what has changed in the time.
Can only get better..?
In some respects I think the Union has adapted well to circumstances, and there is certainly higher utilisation of space compared to before. One of the biggest problems was that thinking circa 2009 was very much a managed decline mentality, and as a result the union now suffers from serious space limitations.
Although the footfall drop of 2007-2010 has reversed, the union is in no position to exploit it. Some of the plans in the pipe-line should go some way to alleviating some of the biggest problems, but as my acquaintance agreed, the problem is when. I have passed the point where I can wait for things like this, let alone indefinitely.
While in hindsight the union was ill-treated by the university's hierarchy, a badly dealt hand can still be played well. Unfortunately it was not, and with critical bridges burned in the process it lost out when it really needed to play hard-ball. What was preached did not correspond with reality, with the alienation of would-be allies making things a lot worse.
The flaws that mattered when the chips were all down have got worse, and the student body in general has been affected by what ended up being de-facto expectation management. Things like Sudentlink that used to exist are now mere dreams, and there is now more of a tendency for those who are involved to be political rather than hard-headed realists. In places it feels like the union has lost the ability to contemplate major changes, and that decisions it should make are being made for it.