I’ll stretch the meaning of perspective here, purely for the aid of a more snappy title. Not only do our student officers lack the ability to judge the relative importance of issues, they also lack the ability to think of issues from multiple viewpoints.
I’ll take the second idea first, for no particular reason. It is a rare talent indeed to be able to see an issue from all possible directions, and extremely valuble if you have got it. I don’t. Neither do our officers. But at least I try to work around my lack of talent, by listening to what others say, not just jumping for the first thing I think of, and trying to consider other options. For example, I had a drunken yet very enlightening conversation with Dave Parry last year on the LEQ system, and students hacking into it. He pointed out that the real problem is with lecturers hacking it; after all, it’s their jobs that are on the line, they are the ones with a vested interest in the results. I totally hadn’t thought of that, but Dave was right in what he said. On the other hand, we have the suggested policy from Sen of an amnesty on all outstanding disposal of chemicals and other Health and Safety issues. He was unable to concieve, despite my best efforts, that this is a purely damaging idea – instead of encouraging people to act responsibly, this only benefits groups that have been maliciously hiding issues due to the cost of sorting them out. If you stumble across and issue, like we did with the chemicals, but this happens to be the week after the amnesty, then you will be (financially) punished. Good guys lose, bad guys win. But neither Sen nor any other member of Exec had worked that out, which is worrying. I had no duty to think the LEQ issue through thoroughly, but our officers absolutely must do so. Yet they don’t.
Instead, they continually make policy that they haven’t thought through properly. How many people realise that we will shortly be advertising for an election for the new DPSA, even though that’s what they voted to do. My hat goes off to Jude Baxter for being the only one to vote against our new policy against graduate taxes. Two issues with this – firstly, there are actually a lot of Imperial student who see graduate tax as the preferred way of solving the funding crises (and is similar to my preferred method); Council should be representing those views. That was Jude’s concern. My concern is that the Union is rapidly backing itself into a corner on the whole funding issue. Instead of trying to rate some ideas as good, some as better, and some worse, the Union is blanketly applying the "not acceptable" to almost every solution proposed. They don’t seem to realise that putting your fingers in your ears and saying ‘no’ all the time rapidly loses all credibility, with the students and with the government. But the paper they passed was written less than an hour before the meeting, and passed with a few seconds debate without anyone considering the full consequencies of their action.
With the relative importance issue, I’ll try to be brief. It’s probably the biggest bugbear of ordinary students, especially those not involved in clubs or other Union activities. Dealing with matters that affect all of the students, such as transport and housing, come a sorry second to the internal structure debates and bureacratic pernicities of a typical Union meeting. I worked for the Union over the summer, and nobody could say what we were doing for the vast majority of students we are supposed to represent that neither come to the bar nor join our clubs. Health and Safety issues – moving the chemicals was the least dangerous thing I’ve done this year. I am qualified to say that, as a trained chemist, yet our officers hear the words "Dangerous Chemicals", "pouring down the sink", and stick their oars in where it wasn’t necessary, and was counter productive. They don’t understand the risks, they have no experience of the matters, yet they make no effort to find out more to enable them to put things into perspective.
An observer at the last council was of the opinion that his paper on "Fair Trade" was more important than the censure, to the point where he repeatedly (and successfully) tried to stop the discussion, so that he instead could spend yet more time trying to advertise his newly formed working group. His point was that coucil had lost their sense of perspective on the importance of following the rules, but I would argue that his perspective on the importance of his paper was also lacking. But he’s far from the only person involved in the running of the Union who lacks perspective.