This article originally appeared as a letter in Felix issue 1358.
In his opinion piece on joining the NUS, Mr Guite argues his case in favour of affiliation, but he completely fails to consider the other side of the issue. Mr Guite talks about a free ICIS card and discounts one can get with the NUS card; however, he fails to mention that the NUS card itself is no longer free but costs £10. No NUS card, no discounts. This is in addition to the substantial affiliation fee the Union will have to pay.
In the last referendum on NUS affiliation at Imperial in 2002, 72% voted against affiliation. This large majority is even more impressive considering that at that time the NUS card was free for students.
We just did not want to affiliate to a body whose politics are so far removed from ours. ICU has always been an apolitical organisation, focussing their efforts on issues directly affecting Imperial students as students and not getting encumbered with general politics. According to the their website, the NUS spends quite some time in front of embassies, demonstrating against wars etc, which is fine in general but really not their job, instead of concentrating on student issues such as tuition fees which they spectacularly failed to prevent.
Things like this happen when people are only interested in climbing the political ladder and see the NUS as a first step to do so, as has been the situation for quite some time. Mr Guite himself agrees that the NUS needs reform. However, I think that he is somewhat overoptimistic when he says that we would be at the forefront of reforms if we joined. We would be the new guys, with little influence. We would be just one voice, lost in the noise.
Now, let me assume for a moment that the NUS did offer the benefit of lobbying at the highest political levels on student issues, disregarding for a moment the question of whether it is effective at this or not. Do we really need to spend £50,000 for this to happen? The NUS would campaign on the most important issues anyway, and we would reap the benefits whether we are affiliated or not. And for the rest we would not have the power to push them in a direction they did not want to go. So why join and spend all that money that could be put to better use increasing the funding for our clubs and societies, directly benefiting all students at Imperial?