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.