& opinion


The financial crisis faced by the Union is becoming an increasing cause for concern. At last November’s AGM, students voted to stop spending Union reserves and to demand that the University meet the shortfall in the Union’s budget.

The Union is thus mandated not to start spending its reserves when the deficit in the budget kicks in. According to Finance Officer David Mooney, however, the Union is set to reach its deficit limit as early as Week 8. So, with the end of term fast approaching, the Union draws ever nearer to potential closure. It is essential that the University meets the shortfall in the Union budget if the Union is to stay open. Failure to do so will force the Union to strike. Additional financial support from the University is the only way to resolve the under-funding of the Union, but there is growing anxiety that senior management at the university may not step in to help. David Mooney assured the badger that the sabbatical team and elected Union representatives would continue to fight the Union’s cause. ‘We will carry on insisting that the university finally understands what the Union does - it represents 12,000 students.’ After all, the students are the very reason the university exists. Mooney views the student body to be the university’s employer - ‘senior management should be reacting to the demands of their employer,’ he added.

The current concerns of Union officials have been compounded recently by the financial struggles of the Student Advice Centre (SAC). The SAC is an invaluable service for thousands of students, and is the only service provider of its kind on campus. Massive lack of funding, however, means the SAC has now reached crisis point.

There are two advisers at the SAC who run dropin sessions and see people by appointment. Despite a huge 165% increase in enquiries at the centre between 2001 and 2002, there has been no extra funding from the university. The result of this is that the centre is being seriously overworked. Last term alone, the two advisers employed by the SAC worked 170 hours over-time between them. Due to the growing rise in student debt, advisers are now required to deal with more complex cases. A fifteen minute interview with a student who needs advice can generate up to 38 hours work for the adviser involved in the case. The SAC desperately need an additional adviser to cope with the high demand for their services. The Union has made it clear to senior management that a third adviser is the only solution to the SAC’s problem. Though the university recognises the SAC as a valuable service and have resolved to sort out the problem, negotiations are still underway over the employment of a third adviser. Welfare Officer Marianne Lemond remains concerned about the future of the SAC. She is keen to stress the severity of the financial problem faced by the SAC but reassures students that, ‘nobody seeking advice will be turned away.’