Live! asked the leaders of the NUS 'Yes' and 'No' campaigns to provide us with some reasons to join the NUS and reasons why we should not, even where this would oppose their own views.
James Fok is leader of the 'No' campaign - you can see the response from the 'Yes' campaign at [http://live.cgcu.net/editions/nus/1303.|http://live.cgcu.net/editions/nus/1303.~~]
Reasons for joining
The NUS is a large body which claims to represent all students in the UK, which in theory makes it a powerful campaigning force. On issues which have an effect on every student in this country, there should be no better way of getting our voice heard. One of the most important achievements was the NUS campaign on council tax in 1991, where they successfully lobbied the government winning exemption for students. The NUS also provides support and advice and opens up a network of unions which may have encountered a problem before. Then of course, there is the NUS Extra card which gives you access to a wide range of discounts for £10.
Reasons against joining
In reality, the NUS has only achieved small victories while the Labour government has been in power. Most of the leading figures in the 'Yes' campaign are supporters or members of the Labour party, as are a large number of those on the national committee. A lot of them probably want to be Labour MPs, so its hardly surprising the NUS is ineffective. Former NUS Presidents Charles Clarke, Jack Straw, Stephen Twigg, Jim Murphy, Lorna Fitzsimmons and Phil Woolas all voted in favour of tuition fees.
Does the NUS actively help and represent students? It spends a lot of its time discussing foreign affairs, but when it comes to the issues that really matter ? the recent exam marking boycott, for example ? they barely discuss them at all. Do we really want to join an organisation who?s priorities are so different from our own? One which recently had many members threatening to disaffiliate because its views were different from them too? Imperial is not a political union, so the "united voice" we would be joining is not our voice.
Summary - Pro NUS
- A potentially powerful campaigning force
- Access to a greater range of student discounts
- A united voice
- Access to support and advice for union officers
Summary - Anti NUS
- The NUS has had no big successes while the Labour government has been in power
- Self-serving and underhand ? campaigning against discounts for non-NUS students
- The "united voice" we would join is different to what "our voice" would say
- It will cost somewhere in the region of £50,000
- There are non-affiliated unions, including Southampton and most in Scotland, which we could turn to for support and advice