Seventh Week in OUSU Council: Real or not Real?

Catz brought a motion to Council this week. We were asking OUSU to negotiate with the university towards feedback for prelims being given to students. Were negotiations to fail, we would coordinate a campaign of Freedom of Information requests for the data, to make the point about how important feedback is to us.

It was all going so well.

Just as Council’s about to start he walks in. He takes the seat next to me. ‘Help’, I squeak, to no-one in particular. He knocks his hand into mine as Louis is giving his President’s Report, meets my eyes, and then points-smirking-at a note I’ve made: ‘Lou- ridiculous clothes’. ‘I’m writing a blog about this’, I whisper. He doesn’t react to this information. I try to focus on the motions:

We reject funding ‘Oxford Women for Women International’, on the basis that there are more appropriate sources of funding.

We pass a motion creating a new part-time executive officer to look after the interests of student parents and carers.

We amend some fundraising regulations.

After a great speech by our own JCR President, and fielding of questions by both of us, we pass our prelims feedback motion without opposition. I cheer under my breath when this happens, and I hear a chuckle from next to me. I glance sideways. He’s smiling. I try to think of good conversation openers for when Council finishes; I come up with a great one. Terrified, but determined to do it anyway, I wait. I listen to a motion about amending election regulations, heart pounding. But before the end, and after exchanging scowls with the Chair of Council and checking his watch, he leaves. Council goes on. Apparently there are people in Oxford objecting to some new graduate accommodation because it blocks their views of Port Meadow. After looking at the detail, we reaffirm our position that the objections are untenable.

I take a midnight walk that evening. It’s a habit I’ve been trying to kick: too much thinking happens on them. Of course, lots of people take midnight walks, but they usually end up in clubs. I decide that it’s probably time to let go.

I think the point of prelims feedback is that you work really hard for something which is then just used to judge you, when it could also be used as a learning opportunity – something you can point to and say, ‘that’s where I can do better next time’. It can become just a part of your narrative about yourself. I also think that – especially if you don’t do as well as you’d hoped – having a written analysis of a situation can help you let go and move on. It can make it feel more like a story; less painful. Less real.

Christopher Casson


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