One of the major jobs of the Classics and Medieval Studies Student Society is being a part of the Arts Student Union (warning, acronyms ahead). It involves going to a meeting every two weeks where there’s discussion, votes, process, and usually pizza. It’s not a lot of work, but it’s work worth doing, for the same reasons 50 Cent does anything. The money, the power, and the women. Let me explain.
The ASU controls every Arts student society’s funding, a stipend given out at the beginning of each term designed to be spent that term on activities and other awesome stuff. The only way you get the money, which varies depending on the size of your department, is by showing up to meetings and doing a little legwork. This money lets you do the most important thing you can do for an event. Buy food. Seriously, people will cross oceans for the promise of free food. It also helps you subsidize tickets to events or merchandise, fund a society prize, or dozens of other things. Running a society on no money isn’t impossible, but when you think about the cost/benefit, there isn’t a better way of getting money for your society. On top of that, the ASU has a discretionary fund that it grants from every term, for special events. When I was an exec, we got a grant that paid for our bus to go to the ROM, so students didn’t have to pay for transportation. Other societies use these to launch major events, to fund journals, or to go on long trips. If you really want to throw an event that’s outside of your budget, and it’s open to all Arts students, put together an application and pitch it to the ASU.
While I find it nearly impossible to take student government seriously, it remains the best way to have a say in the day to day operations of the university. They have representatives at Senate and regular reports on what the administration is doing. I’m not going to exaggerate the amount of influence they have, but the influence they have over students is profound. If you participate, you get to help decide which events get funding and which don’t, and have discussions that can shape student life for the term, or even longer. You represent and speak for the students of your department, and carry the decisions back down to them. If you get a taste for it, you can run for the ASU executive, which is a stepping stone into the Federation of Students.
And the men, really. In student government you get to meet people from all kinds of disciplines. You’ll chat with them, fight with them, and work out issues with them. You’ll be excited together, be bored together, and find out about the interesting things their department is doing. The thing that binds you all together isn’t some shared passion for your discipline, your age, or even your interests. It’s the fact that you care enough to be a part of something larger than yourself. These are the kinds of people you want to get to know, and they come from all over the place. They’re the ones out on cold days selling hamburgers to fundraise for something. They’re the ones who spent all night cutting up construction paper to make that awesome campus day poster. They’re the ones who get it, and who are working hard to make students’ lives more awesome.
There are others reasons, sure. It’s good for your résumé or CV to have held a leadership position in a larger organization, and you’ll learn things about administration, policy, and how to hold a meeting that you won’t learn anywhere else in university. It’s also a chance to score a free dinner every two weeks all year round, to make some new friends, and to become familiar with how universities work on the inside, with their process rather than merely their results. But mostly, you do it for the money, the power, and the women. You the man now, dawg.
Jim Tigwell wasn’t remotely interested in student government or leadership until he accidentally attended an ASU meeting and became inspired. That moment, among others, quickened him into the terrifying creature he is today. Brandish pitchforks and torches at him through Twitter.