Credit: Glasgow Times

Rift between unions and the SRC causes freshers’ week friction

By Lucy Dunn

Funding, union access, and the lack of night buses have fed into the alleged hostility.

Tensions between the Student Representative Council (SRC) and Glasgow’s student unions – the Glasgow University Union (GUU) and Queen Margaret Union (QMU) – reportedly came to a head for the start of Glasgow’s freshers’ week celebrations, with hostility also being directed at both the SRC and the unions by students. Concerns over student safety have been cited following the lack of night buses on campus and claims about freshers helpers. Other factors, including funding and access to events run by the unions, are purported to have heightened friction, with the GUU and QMU allegedly feeling as though they haven’t been supported by the SRC. 

“Concerns over student safety have been cited following the lack of night buses on campus and claims about freshers helpers.”

This year, the split in the organisation of freshers’ events has been noticeable, with the SRC’s “UofG Welcome” pitched against the GUUxQMU collaboration of “UofG Freshers”. According to one SRC helper, there was controversy over whether non-freshers should be allowed into freshers’ events, whilst other differences in opinion included wristband sales. The Glasgow Guardian was told by another SRC helper that as the unions had made their freshers’ week wristbands free, there was less money generated to cover funding for buses to take freshers home at the end of the night: “There was no money from [the wristbands] and the buses cost five figures to run.” Instead of night buses laid on by the SRC, a decision that one student remarked as having “taken away the safest part of freshers’ week”, The Glasgow Guardian was informed that GUSA was required to run the buses themselves. 

The Glasgow Guardian also received reports at the beginning of freshers’ week that SRC helpers had been “banned” from the unions. An SRC freshers’ helper commented that “their argument to us, officially, has been capacity, as they are operating at about 800 less than what they should be”. From Monday to Friday of freshers’ week, The Glasgow Guardian was told that only first years were allowed in the unions. However, the helper went on to state that a “new deal” was arranged where SRC helpers would go to whichever union had less on that night, and would therefore be less busy. 

Whilst the SRC stated that “we’ve expanded Freshers’ Week under the new banner of the UofG Welcome, [from] first years to postgraduates, to returning second years, to visiting international students”, GUU and QMU chose to keep the majority of their events available to new students only, offering “free of charge” wristbands, “available to all incoming first year students”. 

The exclusion of non-freshers from the unions caused a reaction amongst returning students too, as seen on the popular confessions page, GlasKnow, with one student writing: “It’s [a] joke how second years are being treated by the unions and the [University]… When we actually want to try the freshers week events to see what we missed and try to make up for a lost year, we’re not provided for and turned away from events at the unions being told that they’re specifically for freshers, [despite] being told many many times that this year’s events would be “open for all” and that the [University] and unions would be “welcoming all returners”. [It’s] clear that they’re blatantly not doing this for most of the events. Why even bother with false advertising like this?” 

“The exclusion of non-freshers from the unions caused a reaction amongst returning students too…”

Further safety concerns have been expressed with freshers helpers themselves coming under fire after a post appeared on GlasKnow stating that “SRC helpers are a disgrace: skipping queues [and] shouting at people for not letting them get to the front of queues”. The student alleged that they had been “[grabbed] by the wrist and [asked] to follow [the helper]”, commenting: “I am terrified and don’t know if I can’t comfortably go back to campus until they are gone.”

The Student Representative Council “[exists] to ensure [students] have a safe and enjoyable University experience by providing support, representation, and engagement opportunities”. They state on their website that: “Our mission is to [ensure] that the interests and views of our members are represented and addressed at all levels throughout the University and externally [and to] promote the welfare of existing and potential students.”

SRC President, Ella McCabe, told The Glasgow Guardian that: “This year, the student bodies opted for a split approach to September’s welcome activity programme, running UofG Welcome and Freshers’ Week respectively. Considering this split approach, the co-ordination of buses was best placed with the two Unions who were running late night events (QMU and GUU), to ensure timings and risk management were handled effectively in accordance with their planned events. The SRC were, of course, willing to support this initiative, and offered to provide Freshers’ Helpers to aid their running. Despite the split approach this year, the SRC are still fully committed to working closely with cross campus to ensure a positive and safe student experience is delivered to all students.

“In response to the GlasKnow post which made allegations about poor behaviour amongst some of our helpers, we can assure students that the Executive took this extremely seriously. We investigated the matter fully, and people were encouraged to come forward if they had any insight to those who may have been behaving inappropriately. Swift action would have been taken if that individual (or individuals) had have been identified, however no one came forward to back up the assertions in this one anonymous compliant, so there was little we could do beyond remind our helpers of the standards of behaviour expected. The anonymous allegation did not reflect the general behaviour of SRC helpers, who we feel confident represented the SRC in an upstanding way to new students.”

Both the GUU and QMU have also been contacted for a comment, however as of yet have not responded. The SRC are yet to make an official statement.


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