A Just Student Union (or just a student union?)

Justice might be the most discussed idea throughout human intellectual history. The ancient civilizations talked about it; the Renaissance people talked about it; we the modern society still has not done talking about it. What a topic, right? What makes this topic a long-lasting one? And in what ways should this topic relate to the Student Union?

First, we need to define what we meant by “justice” here. Defining is quite cliché but by giving an abstract, we can conceptualize our point of discussion and thus, bring the argument forward. I could not give a definitive positivist answer to what “justice” is, but I find the Greek word for it to be quite satiating – Dikaosunē. The word dikaosunē here can also be translated as “doing something right”. From this, we can understand that dikaosunē has a more moral meaning than a legal one, and that is the thing that I would like to posit. For this purpose, every time the word “justice” pops up, it needs to be understood in the dikaosunē sense.

Justice itself is something we can feel its presence not with our senses and can only be analyzed through its effect. The material conditions of justice are nothing more than its manifestation of its abstract form.

So where is the Student Union’s place in this argument? As a body untethered, in itself, with the university, the Union is mainly responsible to tens of thousands of students under its umbrella. The Union itself has no higher authority dictating its moves. The University or the Ministry of Higher Education both, in the constitutional denotation, are outside entities which interact on the external level when it comes to the Union matter. Without no higher ups, justice towards the student now is provided solely by the Union.

The question arises – what justice should be served by the Student Union? As stated before, I could not give any definitive answer to what justice is. The idea is as debatable as it is intangible. However, also as stated, there are material manifestations of it of which we can comprehend especially those of practices. This would bring us to a more answerable question – what should be practiced by the Student Union that can be constituted as just?

Three major acts can be analyzed to conclude that the Union is just. These acts, if done virtuously by the Student Union will bring prosperity towards the University political sphere and to the wellbeing of each student. These acts are – (1) justified, yet contestable ideas on
Union’s workings, (2) independent of foreign ideas and influences, and (3) the will to accept changes of the status quo.

These acts, if causally read, would seem alien to the idea of Justice. I will explain in detail how these acts will create a just Student Union and how the lack of it would bring injustice.

The Union is not just made up of its executive members but all its members – the common students. Thousands of minds of which have different and opposing ideas living under one banner, and although they differ in opinions, they have the same goal – the common good for the Union. The elected representatives may have their own vision of the workings of the Student Union, and they have their own based justification. However, justified philosophy brought by the leadership does not mean the idea is not contestable. Justice is served by a just Student Union when it opens the floor for contestation of ideas from the common student. To only stick with the ideas of the higher up is to dictate the movement of the Union and thus, constitutes injustice.

Now it is clear to us that justice is more than legal practices. The elected representatives are legally allowed to helm the Union with their own ideas, but this kind of “dictatorship” is virtuously frowned upon.

The second act is very crucial. The students and the leaders have their own political preferences on the national political level. They are allowed and encouraged to have one as citizens of a state. However, when entering the Student Union, all these national political preferences must
be dropped at the front door. To bring foreign ideas is to corrupt the Student Union’s philosophy. Any political thoughts brought into the Union should never be influenced by any foreign bodies with external interest that would not benefit the student at all. The Student Union
will be a just one by preventing this influence by upholding its autonomous thoughts. When this autonomous thought is compromised, the sole focus is now not for student’s well being and overall development. It has now become an arena for the contestation of foreign ideas. This
is a form of injustice as the consequences of said contestation would create a disharmonious state inside the union. The members of the Student Union – executives and common members alike, can only be unified when the Union’s only mission and philosophy is for the students.

The will to change the status quo is a paramount act that needs to be done by a just Student Union. Accepting any status quo is to let injustices time to brew. We have established that no workings are an everlasting one. Changes are then crucial for the Union to move forward.

Where does Justice play its part in this? When a system or ways of operating stays the same in the long run, this will create opportunities for some “political players” to find loopholes and eventually exploit it for their own gains. An ever changing status quo is the safest one. None can exploit a system in which they have to take time to unweave it. Not to mention that changes are meant to bring improvement. Improvements towards the Union are justice manifested for its members.

Justice is part of the goodness, excellence, and the wellbeing we all are striving for. A just Student Union will create a healthy environment for students to develop and satiate their societal desire. When justice is present, the contradictory elements which can ruin the Union are merely trivial and can be solved. When injustice has taken its place at the heart of the Union, all the prosperous ideas which its members want to uphold will be corrupted and these corruptions will ravage to the core. A mere student union who has no mission to uphold justice is on the side of injustice.

It would be fair that we want a just Student Union, not just a Student Union.

By: Aliff Naif Mohd Fizam, Head of Operation VIRTUE IIUM

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *