“The more things change, the more they stay the same”

Earlier this month, The University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Research Collections began publishing archived digitised editions of The Student in real-time, 30 years after they were originally published.

This will continue throughout the 2014/15 academic year, and hopefully beyond.

As expected, these old editions provide an interesting insight into student activity and life, in 1984. Encouragingly, a lot of the less liberal attitudes displayed in the paper published three decades ago, are no longer present; less encouragingly, some student grievances still remain.

The October 11 1984 edition of The Student, contained a feature entitled ‘Homosexuality – the closet remains’. The article’s opening sentence reads: “Although attitude towards homosexuality are becoming a little more liberal, the young homosexual still faces a all of taboo and indifference when he decides to come out.”

One would like to think that, in a broad sense, this would no longer be the case, particularly at The University of Edinburgh. Certainly there are steps still to take in attitudes towards homosexuality in the United Kingdom, but at the same time, only someone very detached from societal norms would perpetuate the stereotypes the writer describes as being carried in 1984.

In contrast however, some things at The University of Edinburgh have not changed. The news section of the October 11 1984 edition of The Student, contains an article about how the student association’s Fresher’s Official – a ceremony for freshers on their arrival in Edinburgh – was “well-intentioned” but “irrelevant”. Surely there is no more apt description of this week’s Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) by-election.

Obviously, having elections, and getting student convenors to represent each school at the University is, in principle, an excellent idea. It gives students the opportunity to voice their opinions, and shape their courses and education.

In reality however, the statistics tell a very different story: an overall turnout of less than 3 per cent of students throughout the entire election, in one election just three votes, and, in another, a victory for ‘Re-open nominations’ (RON). This shows the irrelevance of a theoretically democratic process.

It is not that EUSA’s elected representatives are totally delusional. In a post results interview, EUSA Vice President Academic Affairs (VPAA) Dash Sekhar admitted that turnout should be much higher given the number of candidates, and conceded that EUSA “need to give more support to candidates running.”

Clearly, something more is needed however, to avoid EUSA and its processes disappearing into an abyss of insignificance and farce. Undoubtedly however, elected staff at EUSA will be at somewhat at odds as to how engagement and overall interest can be increased significantly.

One can only hope that in 2044, students reading the front page of this edition are baffled at how students could ever have been so disconnected from their students’ association.

 

Past editions of The Student can be found at:

http://libraryblogs.is.ed.ac.uk/thestudent/

 

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