Imperial joined the NUS as a result of a college wide autumn term referendum 18 months ago. We have been fully ratified members, able to participate in NUS democracy, for just over a year. This term we face leaving it as a result of a further referendum called by the ICU leadership in a recent council meeting. The disaffiliation campaign is asking students to make a huge decision about the fates of students in years to come.
Leaving the NUS now would be taking away the rights of future students to be part of such an organisation. Taking them away when they need them most- when education is becoming more marketised with universities being thrown into competition with each other for funding and an increase in top-up fees being considered.
I opposed the recent attempt at a governance review by the NUS, not because I think the NUS is fine the way it is - I don?t think anyone does! But there were many aspects of the review which I disagreed with, mainly the introduction of a trustee board to NUS governance. These reforms aimed to turn the NUS into something more like a professional lobby group than a union, they were described as a union voting to destroy itself.
I also disagreed with the way the governance review was carried out. An emergency conference was held where one of the two rounds of voting needed to pass the review could be carried out- Imperial selected its delegates to this by mini-bus driving ability and names pulled out of a hat. I also don?t remember any kind of consulting process for ordinary students to express their views on it.
The National Union of Students was proposing a new structure which would have meant that minority student groups would potentially be excluded from the decision making structure of the NUS. Put simply, the Nomination Committee which would have been selected by the Board of Trustees (one of the most powerful bodies in the new proposed structure) would have been responsible for recommending who should sit on the Board of Trustees. Effectively, the Board of Trustees would be a self-selecting body. There would not have been guaranteed representation of the smaller student groups such as those who are part of the Liberation campaigns (Women, Black students, disabled students and LGBT students).
The NUS needs to have more of a presence on campuses, be more relevant and ask students what issues they care about. Tweaking the way the NUS is governed would ultimately do little to change this and risks making the situation worse by alienating people that aren?t interested in governance structures.
The NUS is our chance, as students, to have a voice on a national level. It is our chance to stand up and be counted. It is our chance to ensure that the government hears us loud and clear. The fact that the governance review did not pass this year should not be used as an excuse to throw all our toys out of the pram and disaffiliate. We need to be involved to make a change. Whether you were for or against the governance review is irrelevant in this debate, the fact is that the NUS is our voice. If we disaffiliate today, we don?t lose a discount card, we lose our voice. It's your vote, use it wisely.