Uni lingo: course union

What’s a student union? And what’s a course union? Is there a difference? What do they do?

I’ll be honest with you: I know all about my course union, but I’m very foggy on student unions. All I know about student unions is that they’re meant to represent the student body to the university and its administration, that they have a dedicated building, and that I pay them a certain amount of money every year on top of my tuition. That being said, I know that my student life probably wouldn’t be as good as it is without them. Plus, they provide a number of services and resources to students, like events and a food bank. At UVic, it’s called the UVSS (University of Victoria Students’ Society).

But like I said: I do know about course unions – specifically, my department’s union, the Theatre Course Union (TCU).

A course union is a student-run organization made up of, and responsible for, students within a certain department or group of classes. It’s students for students, basically, just on a smaller scale than the over-arching student union.

Here’s what a course union does (or at least what mine does):

1. Represent the student body to the department administration. Every year, a couple of the specializations have an elected representative, all of whom have a meeting once a month with our Department Chair, to address questions and concerns from the students. Basically, the goal is to work together with the faculty to ensure the student’s experience within the department is as good and as conducive to learning as possible.

2. Provide (emergency) bursaries. Course unions are volunteer-based, not-for-profit organizations and almost all the money they make (from donations or fundraising – ours doesn’t require a fee from students) turns into bursaries that students can apply for. The bursaries are worth around $100 dollars, and are given to theatre students who are in urgent financial need. For various reasons, some students can fall on hard times and if they need help buying groceries or paying their whole rent or any similar necessity, they can turn to the TCU for help. These applications are completely confidential, and only the applicant and the person in charge of approving them actually know that it happened.

valentines event poster3. Hold events! Our course union holds multiple events throughout the school year, both for fundraising purposes and to bring the department (read: the students of the department) closer together. Almost all of our events are essentially the same every year and most have turned into a sort of ritualistic tradition, as many things in the theatre do. Of course, I don’t know how relevant this is in other faculties and departments, but the fact that we have a unique sort of tight-knit community allows us to easily have big group events.

For instance, we have a coffeehouse event every December, where students perform talents or sketches or poke fun at their peers. Our biggest fundraising event of the year is Valentine’s Day, when we auction off students to perform a service, like singing to you, making you dinner, or whatever they’re good at. We sell and hand-out candygrams and, like many of our events, there’s a bake sale. In fact, I made the poster for this year’s event.

So, how can YOU use your course union?

  • You can contact them to voice any questions or concerns you may have. If you look them up, they should have contact information you can use.
  • You can partake in events! Bring some cash, they are fundraisers after all.
  • If they have some, you can get financial assistance if you need it in an emergency.
  • You can join! Course unions will always be glad to have another pair of helping hands. Get involved, share ideas, and work to make university a better place for your peers!

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2 Responses

  1. Jill says:

    Great piece on student unions, Amelia! The TCU sounds awesome, can someone outside the Faculty of Fine Arts participate in some of the events like the Valentines Day sing-o-gram?

    • Amelia says:

      Unfortunately, TCU events, including our candygrams, are just for theatre students. I think the music department does the sing-o-grams for anyone though? I don’t know too much about that. I think course union things being just for their department is good though, because that’s the group of people they’re “responsible” for.