For anyone who has spent the smallest amount of time at the University of Liverpool, criticism of the Liverpool Guild of Students has been a constant, be it from the quality of the events put on to the quality of the facilities – a complaint heard far less since the re-opening of the Guild last year. These are complaints that are levelled at every student union, and they have always and will always be aimed at every student union. However, a complaint that is somewhat particular to the Liverpool Guild of Students concerns the level of support and the quality of the guidance the Guild offers to its societies.
Under the Student Charter the Guild is required to not only “provide and support a range of activities, including student led societies and volunteering opportunities, to enhance personal and professional development” (point 2) but also to “provide an inclusive environment” (point 1). If these complaints are valid, then it would appear that the Guild is failing to fulfill both of these agreements. By failing to properly support societies they are, quite obviously, not undertaking point 2 and by failing to provide guidance of an acceptable quality they are not undertaking point 1. The Guild cannot possibly suggest to be providing an inclusive environment when everyone involved in the creation of that environment (society committees) are making it up because they have not been properly taught how to run a society. An area that this appears to be particularly true of is student media.
Ellipsis Magazine is currently the only printed publication produced by students at the University of Liverpool. In an era where the idea of the death of printing is quickly becoming an accepted fact, the existence of a print publication produced by students (and one that is not crammed with advertising) should be treasured, or at least looked after by those who supposedly represent them. Ellipsis, however, is only able to stay afloat due to funding received from the English Department, who see it as a valuable platform for University of Liverpool students to showcase their creative talents. Lucy Brown, the Editor of Ellipsis, confirmed this state of affairs when she described how the Guild “email occasionally with generic things but in no way shape or form do they help”. She went on to suggest that “the Guild show a case of poorly disguised favouritism towards The Sphinx” and cited last year’s Guild Election where “they approached LSMedia (now The Sphinx) about promoting the event and organised interviews with them but didn’t contact us” as proof.
Along with The Sphinx, LSRadio (the student radio society) have been the recipients of comparably favourable treatment from the Guild in the recent past. Last year, the Liverpool Guild of Students, in a startlingly generous show of support, paid for brand new equipment to be used in the new studio that the society were given in the refurbished Guild building. This update in equipment had been a long time coming. LSRadio, a society that almost completely relies on the equipment it has in order to provide the function it primarily exists for, had been using the same equipment for almost a decade. With this new equipment, LSRadio are now able to produce programming of a quality to rival other student radio stations such as LSR at Leeds University. While the update in the equipment for LSRadio and the journalistic opportunities for The Sphinx have been welcomed, even when it comes to supposed favourites, the Guild has still been falling short of acceptable, most notably with its support of LSRadio. Returning to the comparison with LSR at Leeds University, students wanting to get involved with radio at Leeds University have one massive advantage: their radio station is played out in their Student Union building. The alternative in place at Liverpool is an eclectic mix of music ranging from The Divine Comedy and Speedway to Gwen Stefani and Weezer. There have been regular pushes from LSRadio to change this, but all that the Guild are willing to accept is a pre-recorded show that they will then approve before broadcast. A member of the society described how “it’s not a question of trust, or faith in our ability to produce good shows, it’s more about being able to maintain the status quo in the Courtyard and Sphinx bar.” Another member described how they were “not satisfied with the communication channels in the Guild. The Guild looks filled with intelligent, hard-working, positive people who don’t talk to one another, don’t prioritise the societies and don’t priorities the student experience.”
Both Ellipsis and LSRadio are suffering from a lack of support, an issue which is all but killing the ability of these societies to provide students with a vehicle to develop their talents in the field of media. It would appear that the Guild are either not providing student media societies with any support, in the case of Ellipsis, or are only providing half-baked support, in the case of LSRadio. By not fully supporting these societies, the Guild is failing to fulfill one of the key reasons for its existence – to provide students with a means to develop meaningful skills. By failing to attain this, the Guild is not truly representing all of the student body, a criticism that cannot be ignored and should not be heard as consistently as it is.