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Reform has not failed

Jun 05 2008 14:10
Soumaya Mauthoor
Soumaya Mauthoor argues that we should keep our cool, keep our voice and remain affiliated to the NUS.
Soumaya Mauthoor

This article was originally written for a Felix issue on 6th June 2008.

I'm not a political hack. In fact I even haven?t decided where my political views lie yet! But I am SO annoyed that 24 people in a room have voted to spring this referendum on us right in the middle of exams, without even getting the required numbers to sign the referendum petition. I mean doesn?t democracy mean anything more? The British people are not happy with the EU constitution, so what does the Government do? They ratify the Lisbon Treaty. Nobody wanted the war, and what does the government do? They threaten Iran. I am just SO tired of being told that our elected leaders know better than us!

The whole issue boils down to this ? at the NUS Annual Conference in April, the proposed changes to NUS governance, aimed at giving the union a more democratic structure, which is "agile, cheaper, and more accessible? did not go through. Imperial Union was one of the main backers, and had in fact mandated all of its delegates to support the Governance Review. Understandably, Imperial Union was not happy with the result but perhaps less understandably, now want to take the rash decision to leave the NUS. That?ll teach them to mess with our Imperial demands!

What I ask you dear readers is to consider whether this is in Imperial?s best interest. Both the previous and current presidents were both in favour of the Governance Review and a revised form is being put together. The reforms fell by only 25 votes, with almost two thirds supporting it. The argument for NUS reform has been won, even if this vote wasn?t. In all likelihood the reforms will be passed before Christmas.

Even so, the NUS has already come a long way over the last year: by making the tough decisions to streamline processes and cut back on staffing the NUS slashed affiliation fees by 10 percent overnight. In the year since we?ve joined, the NUS has won major victories for students, not least engineering the back down of HSBC over its student overdraft charges. Since joining, our sabbaticals have attended NUS? summer training programme, and NUS provided tailored and specific training to our college committees and welfare volunteers. Next year ICU will have to register as a charity, and NUS is getting the legal advice on how best to do this? clubbing together for this support is far cheaper than us paying for it on our own. And lastly, as we go into the review of top up fees next year we?ll need a national voice like never before to make ourselves heard.

I?m not trying to pretend that the NUS is problem-free. It?s just that the biggest problem with the NUS is well, US. Yes us. But if the NUS didn?t exist, we?d have to invent it. You have the biggest student organisation in Europe, discussing, researching and campaigning on issues that affect students. We have the brains and the drive to actually get things done. Yes the various factions within the NUS each have their agenda, so sometimes it takes time to come to a consensus, but hey welcome to the adult world! You discuss, you compromise, you don?t throw your toys out of the pram and sulk.

Imperial College was one of the founding members of the NUS in 1922. We left in 1923 citing irreconcilable differences. We joined in 2006 again after 27 years, and are planning to leave after a year. We?re Imperial, we think we don?t need the NUS, because we think everybody knows us and will listen to our views. Get real. This time, let's keep our cool, keep our voice and remain affiliated to the NUS.

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Discussion about “Reform has not failed”

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
Jun 05 2008 14:39
 

"We?re Imperial, we think we don?t need the NUS, because we think everybody knows us and will listen to our views. Get real. This time, let's keep our cool, keep our voice and remain affiliated to the NUS."

I think that really sums it up. The real problem is the NUS does NOT listen to our views. NUS is not and will not be our voice - in 1923 and in 2008. Why stay?

Jun 05 2008 14:55
 

"Next year ICU will have to register as a charity, and NUS is getting the legal advice on how best to do this? clubbing together for this support is far cheaper than us paying for it on our own."

Because it is so hard to register as a charity! It is a boring form filling exercise but does not require the NUS to do it. Is that the best thing that the NUS offers?

Jun 05 2008 15:37
 

This article is not only poorly written, it fails to deliver real and tangible reasons as to why it would benefit the average Imperial student to be affiliated with NUS.

The union could use with ?50,000 a year not spent on a ridiculously bureaucratic, logistically unsound, and above everything non-representative institution like the NUS.

Jun 05 2008 15:42
 

I bet it dosen't cost ?46k to register with the Charity Commission. If we want a lawyer we can pay for one without going via the NUS.

I have a funny feeling that the author may not be as written. I smell NUS HQ propaganda.

Jun 05 2008 16:01
 

NUS HQ propaganda has not arrived yet.

Jun 05 2008 17:42
 

"The argument for NUS reform has been won, even if this vote wasn?t. In all likelihood the reforms will be passed before Christmas."

As a delegate, we received an email after conference from wes streeting telling us that there would be no votes on reform until the annual conference next year...please make sure you know all the facts before writing an article like this!!!!

Jun 05 2008 19:01
 

I will never support an organisation that actively tries to make life worse for people who are already doing very badly in all aspects of their doings; the armed forces.

I am proud to be at a university which has such great history to show for itself in terms of supporting the armed forces.

Yet here you are; at the university which is probably the most supportive higher education establishment in the country for the armed forces.

You will not win and I hope they shut down that ridiculous 'union' of yours - it is truly terrible.

(Note the armed forces issue was the one chosen out of many reasons why to leave the NUS)

8. phili   
Jun 05 2008 20:11
 

NUS Conference voted to oppose a ban on military recruitment on campus. What's your point?

Furthermore, please see here for correct use of semi-colons.

9. rn   
Jun 05 2008 20:45
 

"The British people are not happy with the EU constitution, so what does the Government do? They ratify the Lisbon Treaty. Nobody wanted the war, and what does the government do? They threaten Iran."

These seem quite sweeping statements, to me they sound exactly like political spin. Not really relevant to this debate though.

Jun 06 2008 02:36
 

"And lastly, as we go into the review of top up fees next year we?ll need a national voice like never before to make ourselves heard."

Because the NUS has always been a responsible, organised and successful group when lobbying on this issue haven't they?

Jun 06 2008 11:59
 

Compromise is all very well and good assuming that you are dealing with rational people. Could the yes campaign please provide more details of exactly the sort of people we should be compromising with?

Jun 06 2008 12:01
 

To be fair, the NUS's lobbying very nearly defeated the top up fees bill (there were a tiny handful of votes in it) and they managed to push the proposed fee down to ?3K.

Jun 06 2008 12:52
 

The NUS had little to do with this. They have always been opposed to the whole concept of top up fees and were not prepared to engage on the fee cap as they took a "principled position" against charging anything what so ever.

14. LIAR   
Jun 06 2008 14:52
 

LIAR LIAR LIAR LIAR PANTS ON FIRE!!!!!

Jun 06 2008 15:38
 

Yeah phili and you might to want to read this instead of correcting grammatical errors. Suffice to say no one cares.

"

The final day of NUS conference saw time run out before a motion calling for the support of student military organisations was discussed, however an earlier motion calling for a ban of military recruitment was narrowly defeated.

The presence of the military on campus was always going to be a contentious issue, with recent bans on student military organisations at London colleges and the recent NUT opposition to military recruitment at schools. As these issues appeared after the deadline for motions to conference, they were only covered in amendments, and an emergency motion which was not discussed due to a lack of time.

A motion in the "Society and Citizenship" zone - which was passed - called for opposition to a military attack, or economic sanctions on Iran. An amendment to this zone called for NUS to work with the "Stop the War" coalition to ban army recruitment on campuses, while also organising campus meetings with "Military Families Against the War" and "Stop the War".

A compromise was proposed, with the calls for a campaign to ban military recruitment removed after some agitated speeches. This fell after not making a 2/3 majority. With the full body of the amendment still intact, a number of hand counts were conducted but were too close to call. Following a count, the amendment was rejected by 338 to 316."

WOW! So 316 of 654 do not support the armed forces.

UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUHHHH how I want the NUS, please give me the NUS /sarcasm

Jun 06 2008 15:40
 

"NUS Conference voted to oppose a ban on military recruitment on campus. What's your point?"

The ban only just fell (by about 20 votes out of 700ish) which shows that there are a significant number within the NUS who do not support the military.

Jun 06 2008 17:27
 

Being against military recruitment on campus is not the same thing as being against the military in general. Measuring patriotism by that kind of logic is as foolish as the Stop the War Coalition thinking that by banning recruitment of the university units, the government will suddenly bring the troops back home.

Control your knees.

Jun 06 2008 21:19
 

Being against 'military recruitment' on university campuses shows a fundamental lapse in mental capacity as the concept in non existent as the armed forces have clearly stated. The OTC is for example not a place where the armed forces gets their bulk of 'cannon fodder' as the idiots at UCL appear to believe.

If you want to support NUS affiliation I suggest you write to them and tell them to get their facts right.

Jun 07 2008 10:58
 

Thank you for all your comments. I have tried to sum up everybody?s comments and my own personal views:

1. the NUS does not listen to us

The NUS does listen to Imperial but as incomprehensible as this may sound to some people, we're not the only university in the country, the NUS has to take into account everybody's views.

2. regisitering as a charity is a simple form-filling process

I was a registered charity trustee for two years. Let me tell you that charity registering is not a simple process.

3. The article is poorly written

Nice. An in-depth, mature analysis of my article. Please keep coming with these kinds of comments, they are very beneficial to the overall debate.

4. The Union?s fees

An article will be written regarding next week, how the NUS spends this money and how the Union would spend it.

5. HQ propaganda

Thank you, I take that as a compliment.

6. Reforms

Another article will be written regarding this

7. Military recruitment

I think that has been dealt with. Personally I am against military recruitment at university and was disappointed the ban did not go through, but I still support the NUS.

8. Sweeping political statements ? not relevant

I was trying to show how the concept of democracy is being eroded at government level. Yes we vote these people in, but if they want to introduce or remove something that is opposed by the majority of the public, there should be an uproar.

9. Compromise with who?

Compromise with the views of other people. It seems that to ?Compromise?? people with other views are irrational.

10. Top-op fees

The NUS is fighting to keep the cap, and make sure there is a fair access to bursaries

Hoep to see you on thursday

Jun 07 2008 12:07
 

Your argument saying that some in the NUS oppose the military recruitment, ergo we should pull out of the NUS is fundamentally flawed. I guess you grew up in a one-party state and this whole democracy thing is new to you.

Like it or not, people will think differently from you from their own ethical belief that war is bad and all byproducts of war should be marginalised. I respect this opinion but does not mean I agree with it. Some people hold this view and their views should be represented.

Just be thankful that the measure passed despite how ill-structured the current NUS democracy structure is. The fact that the measure only passed by 20 votes should be of more concern to you and is a symptom of how electing 8 delegates is not working to represent students as a whole.

21. Hmmm   
Jun 07 2008 15:08
 

I dislike that fact that you feel that the 24 people in council are not representative of the student Union and that decisions made there are not democratic but that you do not recognise that the delegates that we send to the NUS are almost always the same people, as I imagine it is with every Union that attends the NUS.

As far as I can see, as you move further up the chain, the representatives become more and more removed from the student body and much more interested in their own personal agenda, which occasionally happens to coincide with something that is relevant to the majority.

I think your point about council not be representative is a good would through and would be much happier to see our Sabb team and those actively involved in the Union trying to get more "grass root involvement" rather than p***ing about with the NUS, which we have little control in changing.

Maybe the reforms will go through, maybe it will get better, but I don't think it is worth our time and money trying to force them through when we have so many problems to solve in our own Union.

Apart from that our presense in the NUS seems to cause a bit of friction and may not help the cause, so lets maybe consider joining again if the reforms go through, if it gets better and not sit around pouring money into a doomed organisation on the off chance it might change.

Jun 07 2008 16:50
 

so what if we cause a bit of friction? lol I think that's exactly why we should be there! It woud make a healthier more representative NUS. It's worth sparing our SABBS for.

Jun 07 2008 23:08
 

You seem to believe that Imperial College London is a represenative democracy in a monarchy in itself i.e a country. This is a not a referendum on the question of the EU or the monarchy if that were the case I would not have a problem with the way the representatives have been chosen. But this is a small organisation in comparison which harbours a political motif which is not consistent with my own hence I think I have a more than justifiable case for wanting to pull out.

The NUS does not do particularly much to help me as a student and I have never thought they did. When they furthermore infringe on my views on the armed forces they are in hot water.

Jun 08 2008 02:46
 

That is the sound of you trying to dig yourself out of a hole. So, by your logic Luxembourg's democracy is less important than ours, and so by the same logic the USA's democracy renders ours unimportant. (Me thinks the latter is the case anyway.)

Find a better reason to be annoyed at the NUS other than the fact they approved your policy even though SHOCK AND HORROR some people opposed it. There are many reasons to oppose the NUS, don't get caught up in unnecessary patriotism and bend your hate towards that, that's what the Daily Mail is for.

Jun 08 2008 15:23
 

So I am digging myself out of the hole even though I have expressibly stated my logic for (according to you) doing so in the first place? How on earth does that work? Please explain you appear to be the champion of NUS logic and apparently state matters as well. Further you appear again to think that we should judge NUS by the same standards as democratically elected government. NO!

The thing you fail you understand or even comprehend it seems is that Imperial College is by far the most supportive university in the UK of the armed forces. This becomes wholly apparent when you search on Google or look at support groups at say Facebook. Being part of something (i.e. NUS) which completely goes against the traditionally support trait of Imperial College for the armed is just not compatible.

Great argument there: I am patriotic therefor I am stupid and read nothing but the Daily Mail.

Yes you will certainly win the election with that kind of logic...

Jun 08 2008 17:18
 

Sorry for being obtuse. I'll clarify.

Firstly, I actually am against the NUS and have been even at the last referendum. I am a member of the Facebook group for a referendum petition this time round with my contact details displayed amongst the first posts. So, in no way am I arguing that the NUS works and you are wrong, I am merely saying that democracy takes many shapes and forms. Our first-past-the-post fails in many ways and so does proportional representation. As I said earlier, I think the 8 delegates doesn't work and lets in faction members (e.g. Camilla Royle) who actually are explicit in their opposition to union mandates. What I am trying to say is that democracy can come in the many forms that their sovereignty's constitution allows.

The NUS is a democracy and one that I think isn't working. However, it is a democracy of one form just as the UK's is another. There were representatives within this constitutional democracy who voted against the military recruitment (though did NOT vote against the military as you seem to confuse) because they theoretically represent the views of the students who elected them. Luckily, that silliness did not pass, so for your interest it is a winner for you and your idea that the NUS opposes the military is unfounded technically.

Also, the Stop The War coalition do not oppose the military as you seem to think, but oppose unjust war. Many see Iraq as an unjust war, and they act on it, whether we agree or not they are free to express it. Their freedom was hard fought, but it is why a military exists in many ways to protect that freedom.

"Further you appear again to think that we should judge NUS by the same standards as democratically elected government. NO!"

Why not? Are some democracies more important than others was my point that I was trying to make. Is it less important to represent students than the country as a whole? I just do not agree with you here. I'm sorry, I do not mean to annoy or anger you (far from it) but I just can't seem to agree.

"Great argument there: I am patriotic therefor I am stupid and read nothing but the Daily Mail."

I never said this, I would never want to call anyone stupid or suggest they only read the Daily Mail. I think calling someone stupid is one of the worse things you can do. I'm sorry if it sounded like this, I really am. What I was trying to say rather carelessly is that the patriotism you invoke appears to be unnecessary, and patriotism though admirable is a dangerous thing to throw about because it can offend people. People are fragile as I find more and more and it is so easy to offend someone unnecessarily. I never said you read only the Daily Mail nor meant to imply, I merely was saying how unnecessary patriotism can border on hate and encourage hostility.

On a personal note, my brother was in the RAF and I admired his conviction. He believed in something and though I cannot share his conviction that in no way devalues what he did.

Many great minds, Bertrand Russell for example, were pacifists and conscientious objectors. They are perhaps in a minority democratically but you cannot avoid the fact that they exist.

The NUS has a failing democracy just like a lot of countries in the world. The minority perhaps are the majority and this needs to be fixed. This fundamental problem of their democracy is what should be p***ing you off, I think the military recruitment problem just clouds the issue and only serves to create division if one use fiery language.

Not that I have the answers, I suck at life.

Jun 09 2008 09:57
 

"2. regisitering as a charity is a simple form-filling process

I was a registered charity trustee for two years. Let me tell you that charity registering is not a simple process."

You must have made hard work for yourself then as I have registered a number of charities for clients and am in the process of assiting with the registration of another one...

Jun 09 2008 10:26
 

"1. the NUS does not listen to us

The NUS does listen to Imperial but as incomprehensible as this may sound to some people, we're not the only university in the country, the NUS has to take into account everybody's views."

Indeed. Yet pro-NUS people claim it is our 'National Voice'. What's the point having a voice that says something different to what you want it to say?

You also mention that NUS is trying to ensure 'fair access' to bursaries. What's it is actually trying to do is add another layer of bureaucracy and take money away from *our* students, because quite a lot of universities (NOT INCLUDING IMPERIAL OR UCL) failed to give out enough bursary money.

Jun 09 2008 16:09
 

I like how this referendum was called when everyone is too busy with exams to pay attention to it (except Sabbs who have no exams!) That was very clever, to quote Trotsky "The end may justify the means as long as there is something that justifies the end". Leaving the NUS is definitely justifiable. And to quote Trotsky again "If we had more time for debate we would have probably made a lot more mistakes". If the student body has little time to read all this NUS propaganda, they are more likely to vote for disaffiliation.

Jun 09 2008 16:13
 

Except 1,800 people need to be persuaded to vote, which is unlikely.

Jun 09 2008 20:49
 

There's always cooping, put up computers near the union, give out free whiskey and the votes will role in. There may be complaints from residents when they find dead poets in other peoples clothing on their doors.

Jun 10 2008 17:29
 

If 1800 people do not vote, what happens? Does the election get made void?

Jun 11 2008 19:01
 

Yeah, so I guess the best thing the Pro NUS camp can do is to publicise the referendum as little as possible, maybe even petition council to give less funding to advertise the referendum and then tell all its supporters not to vote, i.e. boycott the election (citing something along the lines of it being unfair that the elections are during exams). After all the atmosphere around college seems very anti-NUS.

34. Stalin   
Jun 11 2008 19:07
 

Promoting the referendum dosen't really cost that much.

Jun 11 2008 19:34
 

Well there was some kind of cap on how much each camp can spend on their campaign, I was just suggesting they lobby council to reduce this amount. Not everyone can rob banks to raise money!

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