OPINION: The broken system of student influence

- in Debatt

”Always on the edge of any real influence, nibbling at every stretched out hand from the faculty.” Student Arian Khameneh writes about his experience as a student representative.

The initial spark that lead me to become a student representative was a student union advertisement that read “Ta Makten”. The activistic undertones aroused my intent to materialize the numeros ideas I had for a more creative and stimulating learning environment. Now, as I reflect upon my experiences 1.5 years later, those words seem to hover mockingly above me, ironic and inaccessible, leaving merely a horizon of bitter indifference.

Perhaps what I recollect as a turning point, came early on when I quarrelled with one of my teachers who had breached some course literature standards. The confrontation culminated with her coolly stating ”You are not part of the system, but you want to be.”, while walking away.I was instantly overwhelmed by a deluge of self-righteous outrage. I was right! RIGHT? I was just following the regulations, doing my duty by policing the guidelines and the hard-fought rights that generations of students have built upon before!

Dozens of boring meetings, awkward coffee & cake breaks, kafkaesque guidelines that no one follows and god-forsaken protocols that no one cares about besides a select species of bureaucratic drones later, my increasing sense of impotence gave rise to a shift in perspective. In this intricate web of procedures, the impossibility of accomplishing anything meaningful became evident – the call of “Ta Makten” was simply an illusory promise.

My teacher was right, she was damn right. Such was indeed the predicament of the student representative. Always on the edge of any real influence, nibbling at every stretched out hand from the faculty. With deepening contempt I saw how other students turned into careerist wannabe-bureaucrats…their nauseating levels of comradery and bootlicking towards the staff…their pretentious rubbing of shoulders during formal, ceremonious events..their empty pleasantries, inoffensive remarks during meetings…and worst of all, their blind acceptance of ‘how things work’.

“You are not part of the system, but you want to be.”

How can genuine student influence be mobilized when the leverage of the students hinges on being in the good graces of the staff? The student influence that the university so proudly highlights at any chance in its public relations, risks becoming nothing but a symbolic mirage. A mirage that effectively excludes discourses that don’t subordinate to a narrow statutory repertoire, coercing students to articulate themselves in a language of manageable, technical-rational consensus.

Under the pretense of including students in organs of decision-making, the conflict-shy Swedish academic bureaucracy in fact embeds and neutralizes any critique that is inconvenient for the staff. Essentially, the functionality of this bureaucracy necessitates a state of emotional stultification that exiles the unpredictable and the irrational, while ensuring that nothing ever truly changes.

As the broken system of student influence apparently results in nothing but making students toothless, we must evaluate how to become dangerous again. Perhaps what is needed is a cultural shift, where the Lund student milieu that is currently characterized by conservative, middle-class blandness must rediscover the value of mobilizing spontaneous conflict and primal transgression.

Arian Khameneh, student

This is an opinion piece/debate article in Lundagård. The author stands for the arguments in the article.