THE BLOG

There's a Crisis at ULU

11/04/2013 14:34 BST | Updated 11/06/2013 10:12 BST

There's a crisis at the University of London Union (ULU). In the last month, students have seen a flurry of petitions, articles and debates all over the web. And it'll surprise you to know that unlike the stereotype, it has nothing to do with issues such as Palestine or microwaves in the SU bar. The complaints, insults and Twitter discussions are all about one thing - the student officer job of London Student Editor.

For those who aren't ULU hacks like me, London Student is the largest independent student newspaper in Europe and serves the twenty-one constituent colleges of the University of London with news, comment and culture. With such a massive potential readership, this sleeping giant could easily become a journalistic powerhouse, campaigning for students' rights and supporting grassroots movements. However, this year, under current boss Jen Izaakson, the newspaper has failed to support anyone other than the editor herself in the form of a substantial paycheck.

So, what went wrong? Well, in the first issue of the year, way back in September, Izaakson published a 'transphobic' article by LSE student Jason Wong.

Clearly a great first impression for freshers - "Here, have a free tote bag, and some pizza vouchers, oh and don't forget to take some transphobia too!" The infamous feature referred to the introduction of gender-neutral toilets at the university as a "ghastly game of social experiment". I'm not going to publish the other, much worse, slurs he came out with. London Student already gave him that platform.

This was only the beginning of a questionable year for the newspaper, culminating in the recent debacle over the ULU elections. While Izaakson was on leave, the newspaper printed a biased elections issue. In a feature called 'Random Facts', London Student Editor candidate Oscar Webb was assigned the illuminating aphorism, "Oscar has never written for or been involved with London Student". Izaakson claims the facts were sourced from Google. I'm interested in how the popular search engine could find such a specific negative.

Last week ULU Senate held an emergency meeting to hold a no-confidence vote on Izaakson. After three hours of rich debate, which featured an unfriendly solicitor making firm claims about employment law, the motion, needing a two-thirds majority, failed by just one vote - 9 for, 5 abstentions, 0 against.

The leaders of ULU's colleges are dissatisfied with the newspaper and its editor's conduct this year. This won't change, of course. I expect to see the same old rubbish posted on London Student's website, which continues to favour some colleges over others. My own college, King's, has been waiting since March 2012 for its next article.

The elections issue blunder was the final nail in the coffin as far as some senators were concerned. In response to over 20 complaints, a tribunal had nullified the votes for London Student Editor and now legal injunctions, lawyers and, allegedly, wine bottles are flying all over the place at Malet Street.

Much to ULU President Michael Chessum's dismay, Izaakson's reign looks set to continue until the end of the summer term. The unpopular London-wide union still hasn't announced what they intend to do about the election for next year's editor.

It's an exciting time to be a part of ULU. Embarrassing and totally farcical, but exciting.