& opinion


There is a story of two mice, both of which are dropped into a pint glass of milk. One gives up straight away and sinks to the bottom, but the other mouse is a tough little bastard and paddles to keep afloat. He paddles so hard that eventually he turns the milk to butter, and crawls out. This analogy suits the USSU to a tee.

In last week’s badger, Vice-Chancellor Alasdair Smith conducted an interview in recognition of the recent ’no confidence’ referendum levelled against him in this week’s sabbatical elections. Questions were put to him to gauge his position on a variety of issues ranging from his ‘broad welcoming’ of top- up fees and assessment of European higher education as being ‘under-funded, low quality mass production’, to his description of campus as ‘reasonably safe’ and his stance on the impending attack on Iraq, a ‘disaster’ in his words. He was then asked questions concerning the union. Does the union do a good job? Is the union adequately funded? Will decisions made take effect this year? His replies stretch from a plain recognition of the union’s plight - ‘its circumstances are not easy’ - to a recommendation that in times of financial difficulties he would ‘expect there to be a contribution from Student Union reserves’. This decision was unanimously renounced at last term’s Annual General Meeting, a body representing 12,000 students. Has Mr Smith told the university’s pay roll that their democratic decision was wrong and should be changed? It would appear so.

An anonymous third year student stated that there was a time and place for spending reserves, and that a time of financial difficulty would of course be an appropriate occasion. However, she also admits that ‘we need to take a tough stance against the university,’ and that ‘the union’s current line is justified and required.’

With the union in such dire straits it has become apparent among the sabbatical team that a hard position must be held. Plans to close the union indefinitely from week eight will go ahead unless the university moves quite dramatically from its present standpoint. This could lead to students picketing outside Falmer House until it is clear they will not be walked over.

As Finance Officer David Mooney told the crowd at the Monday night’s hustings at East Slope, ‘the national press are gagging for a story like this...no other university in the country has gone down this far in refusing to adequately fund its Student Union.’ He went on to swear that the future sabbatical team, elected this Thursday, must continue to hold the university to its obligation to serve the needs of its students, of its very raison-d’etre.