Smålands Nation is at a crossroad. When Studentlund was founded five years ago, the nation was not part of the collaboration – but now they wish to be a part of the community. However, the road is long and Smålands may be forced to abandon some of its identity.
30 votes for, 1 against. Such was the voting when the members of Smålands Nation in April voted about membership in Kuratorskollegiet and, by extension, Studentlund.
It was a determined first step towards having a closer relationship with the twelve other nations. But the journey may be arduous: a membership may come with the requirement that Smålands Nation may have to abandon its socialistic profile.
Pressured because of falling number of members
Smålands Nation has seen better days. The year before the obligatory membership in a student union disappeared in 2010, the nation stood strong with its socialistic profile and had close to 1200 members. When the other twelve nations formed Studentlund in order to keep attracting members, Smålands Nation stood outside Kuratorskollegiet and the newly founded collaboration.
Now, five years after the fall of the obligatory union membership, they have barely 500 members. And they keep losing members.
“We thought we could manage to remain separate from Studentlund, that we could be a good counter-reaction to Studentlund and reasonable alternative. But now we have tried that and it didn’t turn out quite as planned”, says Tomas, a member of Smålands Nation’s board.
Smålands Nation’s administrator Edvin Lindström has the same impression.
“We feel it’s about time that something is done about this. It’s time to come in and be noticed by all students – just like any other nation. It’s unfortunate that we have shrunk as an organisation and actually are this isolated from the student world”, he says.
“Want to come in in order to reach out”
Today all members of Studentlund can enter Smålands Nation, but Småland Nation’s members cannot enter nations which are a part of Studentlund. An unfortunate position for Smålands Nation when you are trying to attract new members.
And it has been noticed.
“We have not been a real alternative because we have not been on the same level as the other nations. There is no just incentive to become a member of Smålands Nation, especially when you can enter Smålands Nation even if you are a member of another organisation”, says Tomas, and further explains that:
“That is the problem we want to address by becoming a member of Studentlund and Kuratorskollegiet. We want to come in in order to reach out with our business – it would be a tool of communication for us”.
New criteria for membership
The initiative has been welcomed by Studentlund.
“It is good that Studentlund has a united front and can broaden the selection for the students in Lund”, says Studentlund’s coordinator Carolina Norlin.
Smålands Nation is the first new organisation to apply for a membership in Studentlund since its founding in 2010. This also means that there is no established admission procedure.
Because of this Kuratorskollegiet has appointed a committee to formulate a framework for the rules of conduct for its members.
“The criteria we will establish are to be as objective as possible. The cooperation has to be on equal terms, however one can have different points-of-view on which ones. But some form of basic understanding on our expectations of each other as members must exist”, says Carl Artéus, Chairman of Kuratorskollegiet.
The committee will be made up of Carl Artéus and six chairpersons from the nations. They hope the framework will be completed before the spring term ends. Then the other twelve nations will take a stand and vote on the demands made by the framework.
The demands will then be the basis for Kuratorskollegiet’s decision regarding Smålands Nation’s application. And all nations must agree on the framework: a decision based on majority will not be good enough in reality.
“Smålands Nation’s membership will be a question of unity amongst the Nations. Studentlund is a contract and because of this every contracting partner must agree to changes in it” says Carl Artéus.
The crucial problem: Socialism
This is also a fact that makes Smålands Nation sceptical.
“This is what the bump on the road is. Everyone, everyone, everyone must vote for. We are all students, so there can be someone at Smålands who has an ex-partner that is an idiot and doesn’t want Smålands to join. I hope this doesn’t happen, but it could be at that level”, Smålands Nation’s Board member Tomas says.
But a personal vendetta is not Smålands Nation’s biggest hurdle for a potential membership. Twelve of the thirteen nations in Lund are today outspokenly unpolitical and six of them have it written in their by-laws.
Smålands Nation on the other hand has since the 1970s had an openly socialistic ideology and welcomes all to the nation’s sober activities – student or not.
However, this inclusive standpoint has caused Smålands Nation to be excluded from other campus life. And it can continue to do so in the future.
“That Smålands Nation is political could become a complicated matter. It is obvious it would be an issue within the existing homogenous group of. We don’t know how the nations will stand to the political profile Smålands Nation has”, says Carl Artéus and continues:
“But as I see it and as I believe many others do too: nations should be places that are open to everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or political views. That is the whole point. If you have deviated from this principle, then I believe it will be problematic for many”, he says.
Smålands continues to be socialistic
Here the question comes to its head: if Studentlund’s nations’ will not allow an ideological stance in the nation’s business – how willing is Smålands Nation to make compromises about their socialistic profile?
“We will not abandon our platform or our by-laws. That is our demand”, says Tomas and explains further:
“Smålands Nation shall operate in the spirit of socialism. If we can’t continue to be a socialistic nation we would become like the other nations and we don’t want that. Then we won’t be Smålands anymore and would rather stand outside”.
And at Kuratorskollegiet – how strong is the will to compromise there?
“If a party wants to join an organisation, then it’s them foremost who have to make compromises. One has to look at this clearly: the fundamental condition is having the will to discuss matters, and then you have to make a thorough assessment”, says Carl Artéus.
A difficult cooperation
Smålands Nation and Studentlund is by no means an uncomplicated fusion. And Kuratorskollegiet’s upcoming framework will set the bar on how painful it may become. But Småland’s board member Tomas looks towards the future with high spirits.
“The future feels positive. But we will see. I’m not completely sure that… Oh screw it. I’m sure it will work out great”, Tomas laughs and concludes:
“Let’s put it like this: I look forward with confidence regarding the future of Smålands and Studentlund.
Footnote: Tomas did not want to be seen with his last name.
- The obligatory union membership existed up to July in 2010. It meant that students at Sweden’s public universities and colleges had to be members of a union in order to study. In Lund and Uppsala there were parallel demands on nation membership. The government chose to abolish the more than 300 year old compulsory in order to promote the student’s union freedom.
- The Studentlund cooperation was founded as a reaction to the abolishment of the obligatory union membership. It is a collaboration between twelve of Lund’s nations, six student unions and Akademiska föreningen. A membership in Studentlund is needed to take part of the different activities – like the nations’ clubs, the unions’ initiation games and AF’s housing office.
- Kuratorskollegiet (KK) is a joint committee for the nations at Lund University. KK deals foremost with interests shared by the nations’ and, for example the University, the unions and the state.
Text: Casper Danielsson
Translation: Viktor Jönsson