I came to Sussex excited about getting involved and being a part of what went on here. In the space of a month, that enthusiasm has withered to nothing because it's clear to me that unless I ally myself with a specific group of people and subject myself to their authority on all things, I'm not going to get anything done.
The jist of it is this: the union is dominated at the moment by people who seem to be extremely naive about how their behaviour reflects on the union and consequently influences students. This structure tacitly endorses the behaviour of a specific group of people who bully, harass, and otherwise make Sussex an unpleasant place to be. People have complained about the way elections are run, about the behaviour of campaigners, and the union's response has essentially been, 'No one's doing anything wrong.' The letter of the law, but not the spirit, is that how the saying goes?
At this point, I have zero interest in getting involved with the union any further than the academic societies I'm involved with. There may have only been 8 people at the postgrad society meeting, but at least we didn't spend four hours arguing. If the union is going to dismiss concerns that are stated reasonably, if it's going to continue to lend support-- unspoken or otherwise-- to people who intimidate other students, I don't see why I should get involved with it. I know I'm not alone in this. I've heard from so many people who have tried to get involved, who have tried to change things and make it something that every student can get involved in, only to run into the same problems again and again. To be perfectly blunt, the union and the select group of people who surround it seem more interested in making grand political statements than in actually organising any kind of real, effective action. Letter-writing campaigns? Calling? There are so many things we could be doing but aren't, because the union is bogged down in bureaucracy and subject to the narrow interests of a very small group of people who are willing to fight, bully, and shout louder than everyone else to make their pet causes a priority.
Maybe all this will lead to a change in the union. I'd like to think that our officers are reasonable and are willing to accept their part in this mess. I don't envy them right now, but the fact remains that this is a situation of the union's own doing. This is an opportunity for dialogue; the union can listen to the concerns of a group of students who want to be involved but feel excluded and thereby make itself stronger, or it can continue to spiral into irrelevance.