As I’m sure many of you will have seen over the past year, I am no stranger to writing the occasional blog post or two (http://www.winchesterstudents.co.uk/articles). Recently, however, I thought it necessary to clarify my recommendation to you all on our NUS affiliation.
It was all brought to my attention after hearing much conversation over what my stance apparently was – and it could not have been more different!
This kind of situation is expressed better in snappy modern vernacular; ‘rumours are carried by haters, spread by fools and accepted by idiots’. While this is a reasonably jokey way to start the post, I like laughing at funny false gossip about myself as much as the next person. Nevertheless this area is of importance, so decided to do what I love and spend a quick half hour sadistically striking my fingers onto a keyboard.
First, the NUS isn’t perfect. Then again, what is?
I watched the National Executive Committee meeting this week via their website and was underwhelmed somewhat, not least by certain decisions taken. I hear from my predecessors that national conference is no more pleasant, but fortunately valuable work is done to promote vulnerable groups.
I myself query a few controversial decisions. These include the questionable use of no-platforming, even while such policies are regarded as potential infringements on our rights by the Joint Committee on Human Rights. The debate at the Brighton Conference in which some opposed commemoration of the Holocaust gave me pause for thought. The proposed motion at Bradford to ban prisons without providing a viable alternative was well-intentioned but lacked a real substitute.
Most notable in the media recently has been the alleged controversy over the recent NUS President and subsequent spate of disaffiliation referendums. However, the most worrying has been the threat to hard-won homosexual rights, with a motion encouraging university LGBT+ societies to abolish gay male rep roles.
This said, there are plentiful examples of how remaining affiliated is greatly beneficial. Look no further than our released budgets to see we actually make back our membership fee easily – whether through being great at selling NUS Extra cards or though NUSSL. Don’t forget, NUS Extra cards provide a great deal of discounts that are very helpful on a student income.
NUSSL is the commercial arm which assists us through purchasing, commercial development and support. Collaborative purchasing with fellow SUs enables us to source products at more reasonable prices, allowing us to provide events and hire student staff.
Union development is another area I love. By utilising a vast array of resources the NUS has, your Union becomes better for you. I and the other full-time officers are going on NUS Lead and Change courses to learn more ourselves. Just recently, VP Sam came back bristling with new ideas for running the StARs scheme!
With national campaigns on environmental, education, liberation and welfare concerns there are plenty of ways we can express your views and make a bigger impact working with other SUs to amplify our voice.
As you can tell, there is plenty I agree and disagree with in equal measure. My overriding aim for this year is to run your Student Union for you, which means going for the option that best benefits you all.
This is why I believe we are currently most benefited by remaining affiliated to the NUS.
This does not mean I don’t have grievances. First, the President and other officers must be elected by all students – just like when a society comes to me and my team for approval it must embrace democratic values, so should the NUS. I don’t agree that the solution to the student democratic disconnect is to impose artificial limits on the exercise of voting. We as a student body can affect change through getting more involved, and this is one of the best ways to do so. With the right to vote comes the power of change.
We, together, need to be more open and less hostile to different points of view. Let’s not react to changes in the education sector by turning on ourselves. Let’s not just disaffiliate because we are unwilling to lead and change.
Let’s instead be a part of the discussion to make it our NUS again, representative of us all. All students, including LGBT+, the differently-abled, whatever background, even whether your personal politics are green, conservative, labour, liberal or UKIP.
We all have valuable views to contribute to the on-going discussion about what the NUS should be. About time to express them, in my opinion. We’re better in by far.