I don’t know what possessed me to become a course representative in my second year of University. I must have been mad. “It’ll look great on your CV!” they all say . Well being a course rep has been the biggest headache of my entire time at University and it was entirely self-inflicted… And I’ve loved every second of it. Sort of.
It sounds simple on paper. Turn up at a meeting per term as well as a training session or two at the beginning of the year and boom, you’re making a difference in the University and the floodgates of jobs will come rolling in.
Ahem. Not quite.
Unfortunately, I ended up in a department of very good course reps who actually wanted to make a difference, which kept me drudging forever onwards, rather than bailing and coasting off of the benefits.
Turning up at a meeting with a bunch of other Reps and stating what you want isn’t going to work, meetings don’t work like that, you need to go into them with a plan, and thus a pre-meeting meeting was required. On top of this, if there’s an issue with a specific unit or lecturer, that’s another meeting right there. Hopefully I’m painting an image of a life dominated by a million meetings on a vast swathe of topics.
Understandably, attendance plummets past the first meeting as people have work to focus on, forget or quite simply, can’t be arsed. I don’t blame them, the number of meetings which ended up achieving very little were staggering. And that’s simply because, many staff but by no means all, don’t really respect the Course Reps. And who can blame them when they hardly show up. And here we see the self fulfilling prophecy completed and why the system is a bit of a mess.
I should probably note, my experience of course repping was by no means normal. There was conflict along the way (a story for another blog post) at many different levels and I really wanted to give up for some time and at points, massively regretted becoming one, stubbornness being my downfall and what ultimately kept me going.
Ultimately, what being a course rep exposes you to is the non-sanitised view of the University business. You see the things that go on that the higher-ups don’t want you to see. Awful lecturers, mismanagement and a whole host of student issues left unchallenged. But here’s where the enjoyment kicks in. I can challenge those things. I can be a pain in the arse and make things happen. I can debate people and fight and meet staff and attempt to fix things. I can drag the University kicking and screaming in a better direction.
If I have any advice for anyone considering being a course rep, it’s these three things:
- You’ve got to want to make the University better, don’t do it just for the promise of potential job opportunities, the meetings will be dull and you’ll be wasting your time
- You’ve also got to be willing to see the bad side of things and not let it cloud your overall view. Yes there are bad things, but I love my University. It’s great, and I won’t let the improvements that can be made get to me.
- Expect opposition. There will be people who disagree and they will attempt to make your life hell
I haven’t painted a particularly nice image of what being a Course Representative is. But it’s not exactly nice. It’s hard work. Challenging an institution in such a way will bring out the worst in some people. It made me bitter. It made me jaded.
But I got a free hoody so it’s not all bad eh?