When you start university, especially during Freshers’, you’ll see all the wonderful things that university has to offer you, and that includes societies. When you are walking around Fresher’s Fayre or a society event, there could be up to a hundred different societies trying to tell you why you should sign up to their society and get involved. It doesn’t really matter whether you sign up to 10 societies or none at all, but should you care about your university societies? (You may even find yourself asking, which university society should I join?) The answer is, and always will be, yes.
It may take a few weeks or months, but once you become settled at university, you’ll realise that societies and extracurricular activities are the prime opportunities for you to express yourself. You can meet people with like-minded views, opinions, interests, or even who are studying the same course as yourself. It is truly a connection between people. And the great thing is, nobody is forcing you to be there! It isn’t a boring class that you have to take or that coursework project you need to complete. The society is your choice and yours alone.
When the pressures of university life begin to take hold of your sanity (and that will happen at some point!) you’ll need something to ease your anxieties and to take your mind off of student life. A society is a perfect place for this. As each university has their own societies – but they are common at other institutions – there really is something for everybody. There may be a beer-drinking, Harry Potter, or puppet-making society which will take your fancy. The choices are endless (well, up to and including the societies that actually exist at your university!).
However, if you don’t sign up to a society, should you still care about them? If societies were being closed and funding cut, does it actually matter? What about your university student paper/magazine? Did you know that you had one, or how many people offer their free time and resources to make that happen?
This year, The London Student – which was Europe’s largest circulating student newspaper – was shut down, as funding was cut by ULU (The University of London’s Union). Even with protests and petitions, the student newspaper printed its last issue in the summer, after a solid 35 years in publication.
When it came to UUL making its decision, it based it on a survey and depressing statistics, where even though the majority of people who took the survey didn’t read the newspaper, they didn’t care if it were abolished. With a sad number of no more than 20% of students actually taking the survey, it shows that the responses in no way reflected the actual student population.
Now that the student paper has run out of ink, and nobody speaking for the 12,000 students it represented, what does that mean for your society and your university? If the largest run European student newspaper could be shut down so easily, and maybe even replaced with opticians, do you want to fight for your society?
It doesn’t matter if you don’t take part in an extracurricular activity at university, but what does matter is your ability to do so when you want and need to. If you don’t speak up and shout about how you do care, people will assume you don’t, meaning they have the power to cut funding in areas where they see fit.
When sign-up time comes when one of your societies or funding is being cut: take the survey, cast your vote and speak your mind, before it is too late.
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