EUSA suffers from two serious flaws.
1. It is not an opt-in union.
2. It does not represent students.
Let's start with the merits of opt-in vs opt-out. Firstly, an opt-in system would involve some kind of financial fee to join. EUSA-less would suggest around £5 a year.
This would give you the right to student prices at the Unions, whereas those not in EUSA would pay normal price.
Aside from the financial benefit to the Union of opt-ing in (it would create £130,000 extra revenue a year) it would also create better accountability for the sabbaticals. Your £5 annual fee should be worth it!
With an opt-out system, which we currently have, students are automatically enrolled and so perhaps are more apathetic. If they had to make a conscious decision each year to join the Association, it would encourage interest in both voting and calling lazy politicians to account.
Now, how does EUSA not represent students? Well, I can think of a few major groups who'd agree with me...
- Anyone who voted for Boris Johnson. Despite receiving 200 nominations for the post and the national press being convinced he would win, EUSA decided to actively campaign against him. In doing so they not only alienated the 2,123 people who voted for him, they struck a blow for constructive democracy.
- Any member of the Christian Union. Edinburgh University Students Association embarked on a campaign to "Stop PURE," PURE being a religious class run by the CU. An aversion to homosexuality was mentioned briefly in the literature and EUSA immediately leapt into action. They used their muscle to push the CU classes out of EUSA property on the grounds that they were discriminating against homosexuality. Any mentions of "free speech" "religious tolerance" etc. were shouted down mercilessly.
Students who write for The Journal. Josh MacAlister banned The Journal immediately from Edinburgh University property (as covered by the BBC).It's been noted in EUSA meetings recently that The Journal is more widely read than both Student & Hype.
- Diagnostics Society - a debating society which EUSA have repeatedly tried to ban on the grounds that it is elitist.
- Anyone who disagrees with the EUSA policy on top-up fees. If anyone breaks with the EUSA line on opposition to top-up fees, they have been officially warned they will be prevented from attending NUS conferences and representing EUSA. Surely an issue as serious as this should have been put to a referendum instead of the President deciding what was best for us?
The problem with representation could, as EUSA-less sees it, be solved by making EUSA an opt-in system.
If bodies like the Christian Union, which have around 1000 members, were all to opt-out in protest, that represents a significant amount of lost revenue for EUSA.
Similarly, if every student who had voted for Boris Johnson opted out, EUSA would now have lost nearly 10% of it's membership.