Regular readers of Felix will have noticed that I have on several occasions this year wrote about what was going on in NUS. Voting to affiliate by 53% to 47% hardly represents a ringing endorsement for the NUS from Imperial students and throughout this year I have attended countless events to attempt to make the NUS better. My own perspective on this was that I was ?taking one for the team?. I would be the last student from Imperial ever to have to sit through some tortuous meetings where everything has to be dumbed down to the point where any meaningful debate is not possible. I took the view that this was worth the effort as if the NUS changed then it might have stood a reasonable chance of becoming a respected national voice for students.
Looking ahead for the foreseeable future NUS will continue to operate in a farcical manner. I could take an idealistic stance and raise the notion of some sort of consensus could be reached if only we hung around for another year. The reality is that those political activists with a vested interest in how the NUS operates have no intention of changing their position and I feel that this would be a naive stance to take. For the avoidance of doubt, these are the same people who continuously attempt to waste everyone?s time on pointless debates about esoteric issues in far off lands. I would love to sit some of them down and talk about pressing issues such as assessment feedback and student housing but whilst they are more interested in ranting on about what a great job Hugo Chavez is doing running Venezuela and why students should go on strike for no reason attempts to do so are futile.
It is quite right that there are now a lot of people questioning the legitimacy of NUS. Indeed, over the Christmas holidays I was forwarded an email that had been sent by the Chief Executive of Universities UK to the College advertising the Student Juries scheme which is being run by the government via the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. The NUS will tell you that they are the only show in town when it comes to talking to the government and that they are respected as the authoritative voice of UK students. It saddened me to read the following excerpt
?UUK has been working to raise issues of concern over this agenda through our position on the stakeholders working group and are particularly keen that the students selected to take part in the juries should be representative of the full range of student voices. We have argued that care should be taken not to include merely "politicised voices" through organisations such as the NUS.?
Is an organisation that is dismissed by the umbrella body for all UK Universities as unrepresentative and dominated by voices that are needlessly politicised really something that we want to subsidise? Both these statements are inferred by the above text which raises serious questions about the NUS as the marvellous student voice that they claim to be. £46,000 is a lot of money to pay for an organisation which is treated with such disdain. NUS? 2008/09 budget indicates that they are spending £502,073 on taking decisions which is £200,000 more than what they intend to spend on campaigning and advocacy. That?s right folks, the NUS thinks it is better to spend huge amounts of money on political events where officers can whinge at each other than it does spending the money on delivering outcomes for students. This represents a chronic waste of cash that I would like to see spent on what ordinary students want.
Just because we can afford NUS affiliation doesn?t make it a good use of funds. I can afford the latest Girls Aloud CD but it doesn?t follow that I would be wise to spend some of my money on it. In October this Union supported NUS reform on the condition that this year was the last year of waste and farce. We stipulated back in November that if things didn?t change then we would re-consider our membership. This is an uncontested fact and being aware of the amount of effort this Union has dedicated to changing NUS this year. I find the accusation made that disaffiliation would represent a reactionary step not compatible with this Union?s work over the past 12 months. I am now of the view that the NUS is now well past saving and attempting to do so will just be a waste of our time and money. Next week, vote No to NUS affiliation is you want to send the strongest of messages that Imperial College Union thinks that students deserve better and that £46,000 could be better spent.