Think about it for a moment. What would you say is the focal point of college or campus life? If today you were to pose a question to different members of the college community on what makes campus life tick, you are more likely to get different responses.

To academically minded students, the library or classroom is what makes campus life tick. To others, the dorm rooms, the communal hall, or even the open green lawn spaces are what make campus life tick. While all these responses are valid by all means, we can’t run away from the fact that the student union is at the heart of campus life.

If you’ve ever set foot in a high school or college, you are most likely to have heard about a student union or been part and parcel of it. If you are about to join high school or college, you probably are wondering what a student union is.

Well, you are in the right place as we are about to enlighten you on what exactly is a student union, what is a student union in college, what is the purpose of a student union, what is a multicultural student union, what is a student union fee and many more.

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What is a student union?

Also known as a student association or student government, a student union is basically an organization that is run by students at a college or university whose core mandate is to advocate and represent the affairs and interests of the student body.

A student union is primarily made up of elected representatives from various academic departments as well as student organizations. A student union is all about providing students with a voice on campus or in college. It is all about ensuring that the interests of students, their needs, and grievances if any, are addressed. With that being said, perhaps a detour to the functions of a student union is in order. The key functions of a student union include.

  • Advocacy: The most important function of a student union is advocating for the rights of the students. A student union advocates for policies that benefit students from all walks of life and might include affordable tuition, security within the college or university, easy access to resources, and inclusivity, to mention a few.
  • Governance: The student union is co-opted by the university board of trustees or committees and as such becomes part and parcel of decision-making. Their core objective in such committees is to advance the interests of students.
  • Programming: Of course, when asking what the role of a student union is, programming is one of the things that come to mind. Remember the adage that all work and no play make Jack a dull boy? Well, programming entails organizing events and extra-curricular activities for the student body such as inviting guest speakers, concerts, as well as social events.
  • Funding: This is a no-brainer, right? It entails providing funding for student clubs and organizations with the sole purpose of allowing them to organize activities and events that primarily benefit the students.

Services: The services that the student union provides to the students in college or campus range from legal aid to career services to health and wellness programs.

With this in mind, it’s important to note that the roles and responsibilities of a student union are not universal and that they vary from one institution of higher learning to the other based on the needs and interests of the student body. In fact, it’s imperative to note that various colleges and universities have multiple student unions representing different groups and unions.

Examples include a black student union, and a multicultural student union, to mention a few.

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What is a student union in college for?

Now that you are conversant with what a student union is, it’s important to note that a student union exists solely for student interests. It is responsible for:

·         Managing student organizations.

·         Overseeing student government.

·         Improving student facilities such as dining halls, recreational spaces, and dormitories.

·         Provide services and support to students.

What is the purpose of a student union?

No doubt, a student union is all about advocating and representing the needs and interests of a student body within a college or campus. The key objective of a student union is to enhance or rather make the college experience for students amazing.

It is all about promoting a sense of belonging among students and providing avenues for personal as well as professional growth. In as much as you already might be having an idea of what the purpose of a student union is, highlighting them won’t hurt. That said, here are the specific purposes of a student union.
Advocating for the interests of students and ensuring that their voices are heard and that their needs and interests are being met.

  • Planning and organizing events be it educational, social, or cultural events.
  • Providing a range of services and resources to students including but not limited to career services, legal aid, student discounts, and health and wellness programs.
  • Encouraging students to take up leadership roles with a view to creating a more vibrant and engaged college community.

Providing the necessary funding for student organizations or clubs to organize various events

If there is a takeaway, it has to be that the essence or purpose of a student union is to enhance your experience in college, ensure that your rights are not trampled on, and provide an avenue through which you can develop your leadership skills.

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What is a black student union?

From the name, this is a student organization that specifically advocates for the interests and needs of black students on a college or university campus. A black student union gives black students an identity and a platform through which they can connect, engage, and share their experiences.

The core objective of the black student union is to focus on and address issues that affect black students such as racial justice, community service, and inclusion and diversity. It’s about giving black students a sense of belonging, and an avenue through which they can build relationships, share their diverse stories, and support one another.

Granted, a black student union advocates for the interests and needs of black students. However, membership to a black student union is not exclusive. Students of whatever race on campus can join and participate in events and activities that have been organized by black students. The purpose of a black student union is not to isolate or exclude other students but it’s simply a platform through which black students come together, combine their ideas, and promote positive change on campus.

What is a multicultural student union?

A multicultural student union is about diversity and representing the interests and needs of students from diverse backgrounds. If there is one thing that stands out about a multicultural student union, it has to be the fact that it’s all about inclusion, equity, and diversity. LGBTQ+ students, students of color, international students, students from low-income, to mention a few have a home in a multicultural student union.

A multicultural student union, just like any other student union, is formed with a goal in mind. The main goals of a multicultural student union are.

·         Celebrating diversity through the organization of various events and activities such as heritage month events, educational programs, and cultural festivals.

·         Addressing issues facing underrepresented students on campus. Such issues may range from harassment, to discrimination, to lack of access to resources.

·         Building a community where members can network, socialize, and develop their leadership skills.

·         Provide support to students in the form of mentorship programs, career services, and academic support.

·         Advocating for a change in policies and practices that negatively affect underrepresented students.

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What is a student union fee?

A student union fee, in simple terms, is a fee that is charged to students by their respective colleges and campuses in order to enable the student union body to fund a variety of services and programs it offers to students. It’s imperative to note that the student union fee is mandatory and varies from college to college.

That said, a student union fee is used to fund or organize various events and activities, funding student clubs and organizations, provide various services to students, and lobbying for the students best interests.

What is a student union card?

Also known as a campus ID or a student ID, a student union card is a form of identification card that is issued to students by their respective colleges and campuses. A student union card typically has the following information.

·         Name of the student.

·         Student identification number.

·         Photograph of the student.

·         Campus housing information.

·         Year of graduation.

·         What the student majors in.

The purpose of a student union card is identification, acts as a key to access certain campus services, and serves as proof of membership in various student clubs and organizations.

Benefits of getting involved in a student union

The truth of the matter is that as a student, you stand to benefit immensely when you get involved in a student union. Some of the benefits of getting involved in a student union include.

1.                  You get to develop important leadership skills. A student union provides you with a platform through which you can hone and develop various leadership skills such as decision-making skills, communication skills, organization skills, and so on so forth.

2.                  You get to experience personal growth. When you get involved in a student union, you interact with other students and get exposed to new ideas, new thinking, new perspectives, and new experiences. This serves to enhance your personal growth.

3.                  You get to network with other students and staff on campus. These connections can lead to valuable opportunities both on a personal and professional level.

4.                  You get the opportunity to be part of the solution and make a real difference on campus. You don’t have to sit on the fence and complain about this and that. You roll your sleeves and be part of the change you want to see on campus. You can advocate for real change and ensure that the needs and interests of fellow students are addressed.

5.                  You get to build your resume and demonstrate that you can be a team player. This will go a long way in presenting you as someone who is a community team player in the affairs of your campus and is proactive.

The whole idea of going to campus other than getting the prerequisite knowledge is to become an all-around person. It is important that you draw on the experiences of others, share ideas, build networks and connections, and leave campus a better person than when you joined. A student union provides you with such an opportunity to hone and develop leadership skills.

How can you get involved in a student union?

Well, there are a number of ways in which you can get involved in a student union. If you are looking to join college or campus soon, perhaps this question has crossed your mind at least once.

You can get involved in a student union by attending upcoming meetings and events, joining a student union committee that focuses on an interest of your choice, starting a student organization that aligns with a personal special interest, and volunteering.

You must take up your place in steering your campus or college to the next level.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, a student union is without a doubt a very important organization in so far as advocating for the needs and interests of students on campus is concerned. It is important that you be part of a student union whether it’s a black student union or a multicultural student union.

By being part of a student union, you get to network, advance the interests of the underrepresented, nip in the bud issues of discrimination, as well as grow both personally and professionally.

A student union will enhance your experience on campus, make it memorable, and provide you with a platform to make a real difference on campus!

Questions and answers

What is the oldest student union building in the world?

Teviot Row House is the oldest reference to a student union. The building is located in Scotland, University of Edinburgh.

What is the structure of a student union?
Usually there is a classic vertical structure, a governing board and a principal.