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Think of NUS as an insurance policy

Jun 13 2008 16:12
Kilian Frensch
Kilian Frensch says we should treat the NUS as an insurance policy, because any money we save won't be spent properly anyway.
Kilian Frensch

I don't really give a toss about Union politics. I'm an average student who just wants to have fun, get a good degree, and do something I excel at and enjoy. Now I'm being asked to choose whether or not the Union should stay with the NUS. What do I do?

Some people tell me that the NUS has done great things for students in the past, and that it provides us with a strong voice when issues affect students throughout the UK. Other people tell me that the NUS is mismanaged and doesn't always represent Imperial?s views. After doing a bit of research, I found out that most of this is pretty true. So it's an organisation that scores big victories but stumbles along the path, why the fuss about staying affiliated or not?

The reason why Imperial?s Union wants to leave is simple: some issues adamantly fought for by our dearest delegates didn't make the cut, as other members of the NUS disagreed with them. One of the reasons this repeatedly happens is because the NUS encompasses Higher and Further Education, which clearly aren't all too compatible. So should we leave on the back of not always getting what we want? Sounds a bit like a petulant toddler who's unhappy that mummy wouldn't buy them the newest toy. How about we accept the fact that we can't always get what we want, as, in this case, decisions are democratic. If democracy doesn't suit you, I hear Zimbabwe are accepting citizenship applications.

All these endless discussions bringing up reasons to stay and reasons to leave are really just smokescreens. The crux of the issue is very simple, do you want to:

  1. Have a national voice
  2. Not have a national voice

I don't know about you, but No. 1 sounds pretty good to me. Some people will tell you that the £46k affiliation fee can be better used by clubs and societies, but considering that most of the Union's £1.3m of income doesn't go to C&S anyways, that seems unlikely. The money will probably be lost somewhere funding some stupid float for the Lord Mayor's show, or yet another merry-go-round for me the throw up on during the Summer Ball.

At the end of the day, affiliating with the NUS is kind of like taking out an insurance policy. When you don't need it, you feel like you're wasting money. But every so often you do make use of it, and then you're pretty damn glad you had it in the first place. And therein lies a major reason why we keep having this discussion. In times where we feel like we're not getting anything in return, we act childish and cancel our policy. So don't listen to the gibberish about ?value for money? or ?diverse opinions? and just keep the insurance in case we need it in the future.

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Discussion about “Think of NUS as an insurance policy”

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 13 2008 16:48

Kilian, that's quite an expensive insurance policy that would have rather bizarre terms and conditions. Something like "we'll only pay out if you crash on a Tuesday into a pink car". There'd be no guarantee that if we "needed" the NUS we'd get our way on that occasion, if we haven't got our way on previous occasions.

The choices actually are:

  1. A national voice that is in conflict with itself and speaks against us
  2. No national voice and an extra pot of money

Sadly, your "I don't give a toss" attitude does show here and I wonder why you bothered writing anything at all.

P.S. The Lord Mayor's Show is paid for by external sponsorship and makes money (and happens to be good fun - you say you want to do something you enjoy, why say what I enjoyed doing is 'stupid'?).

Jun 14 2008 13:02

The article seems to focus on the national voice that Imperial students have, and of course this is a hugely important issue - after all that is what ICU is essentially there for. By affiliating with the NUS, ICU will have to compromise on a range of issues affecting our students - e.g. the national bursary scheme which will syphon money away from our students - obviously not in the best interests of students. The other facet to this is that ICU would be dragged in to NUS policies by association. This could negatively affect ICU's image in the wider world as its intentions on a national scene would be governed by NUS policy - which could go against ICU policy. ICU serves a very narrow subject range and as such ICU's voice is stronger for its students separately than with it being weakened and dilute by NUS affiliation.

Jun 14 2008 13:11

funny that, kilian's i dont give a toss attitude did create the science challenge, the rcsu, a great fresher's ball, the idea to use the ritz as a science challenge venue, the return of the broadsheet and now a successful gsa...

maybe all these union hacks should take an example and DO something for students, rather than sit on committees all day and pretend to tweak the union so that it works "optimally" by editing and re-editing the constitution.

my guess is he wrote this because it reflects what your average every-day gimp thinks. if that's in conflict with you hacks, you shouldn't take it personally, you should realise you're not representing your students.

besides, it was a metaphor, obviously some people cant comprehend that...

Jun 14 2008 13:17

on another note, if we're so concerned about saving money, shouldn't we be looking at sabb salaries? they're paid over 50% more than a phd student, yet they're just glorified volunteers...bit of a joke, really!

Jun 14 2008 14:08

1.) Sitting on college committees all day is what student representatives are for. What would you consider to be a better use of time? Or would you rather that the student body was not asked for input at all?

2.) Did you notice that 2 of the sabbs in particular opposed attempts all year to fiddle with the constitution as no doubt they also thought that this sort of behaviour is pointless and there are more useful things they can be getting on with?

Jun 14 2008 15:56

thanks for your comments, ashley! next time, i won't write anything. in fact, i might as well never write anything as you seem to know best what's in everyone's interests! simply discarding other people's opinions as worthless because they conflict with your own is quite childish, not to mention irresponsible as an editor.

(you might also want to think at who the article was aimed at before you pass hasty judgements...)

apologies about the lord mayor's show comment, it wasn't directed at you, it was simply something i've picked up over the years from the mouths of many fellow students. i'm happy the money comes from elsewhere, and hope you enjoy the shows to come.

re RCSU dude: cheers, funnily enough i never even saw half colours for the first science challenge! i'd put that down to my lack of attendance at council...i think it would be nice if more students came out and did things like the challenge, there has been far too much debating and far too little action from the union since i've been at this university. those that do try and introduce new ideas and achieve bigger goals than hacking the constitution seem to get shot down quite often. it's the jads, guites and lilys of this university who really add value to student life. the union needs to come off its high throne and finally look at what its students want from it. when i was still in the psu i suggested getting an mtv campus invasion to imperial, but, guess what, people found it more important to decide on things like whether or not jez was at the summer ball. it's frustrating to want to improve campus life and inject new ideas only to be dealt with how only the union and its hacks can.

re questions: yes, the committee-sitting is a terrible beaurocracy, sometimes necessary, sometimes a waste of time when all you hear is a few voices droning on about nothing in particular. but no, that's not the only thing student representatives are for, and that's something some people really need to understand. half of college doesnt know nor care about the union. they care about the clubs they're in, but as far as they're concerned, they could just be run autonomously. why don't we do something about it?

Jun 14 2008 15:59

hehe i bet there'll be a whole heap of bickering following my post...i probably won't visit this page again because i have better things to do, so if you fancy insulting me in person send me an email!

Jun 14 2008 16:00

PS shameless plug for a PG Welcome Ball in October!

Jun 14 2008 17:13

Do you honestly think you're the only one who wants that? And you are one of the only good ones? You arrogant prick.

Jun 14 2008 19:07

"A national voice" is such a vague thing to use as a reason for NUS membership. It is not as if students can do anything to significantly lobby or pressurise the government successfully, despite what some people say. I think the bulk of peoples grievences with the NUS is that it is happy to concentrate on worldwide issues, without putting anywhere near its full effort into students problems. I would be the first to vote to stay in the NUS if it concentrated solely on students.

I do agree with Kilian though in that too much time is taken up by sitting on committees and sub commitees, when time could be better spent on something really worthwhile.

11. Agreed   
Jun 14 2008 19:33

I too agree with him 100%. those committees are a complete waste of everybody's time unless you have something specific to achieve... and even then they can be.

all in all, union politics are a real bore for all but those who want to make a name for themselves by forcing everyone else to listen to their tiresome checklist of 'issues'.

12. Ant   
Jun 14 2008 23:04

Kilian - I can see you fit well with the NUS Exec, Ashley has given his opinion on your article, as himself and in a 'comment' section and your response is to 'throw your toys out of the pram' and question his calibre as an editor. In my opinion the fact that your article and many others over the years have been availiable for all to see and comment on actually proves the quality and standing of the Live! team.

As for problems I personally see with your article and following comments is the fact that on one hand you complain about buracracy(sp) and on the other you are campaigning to keep involved in an organisation which, in my opinion makes ICU council look like a smooth operating machine.

Also being of an analytical mind some evidence and examples for your comments regarding a successful national voice and its big victories would be appreciated, its more convincing than 'my mate said so'.

13. herro   
Jun 14 2008 23:05

it takes someone to nominate you for you to get half colours, kilian. that would involve you not being an arrogant prick.

Jun 15 2008 00:40

Hmm, he does come across as an arrogant prick, it's really more to do with lack of social skills and being frankly a bit wierd. He stalks Asian girls on Facebook.

As for his dumbass article and comments, it's a cry for attention. Ignore him. He clearly is clueless about how the NUS or ICU function.

I would take strong issue with Killian Frensch taking the credit for the RSCU Science Challenge. His contribution was minimal. Both LifeSci and PSU worked on it, the idea was proposed and funded by an old boy of the RCS.

His major gripe seems to be not being listened to by ICU. Again probably due to lack of social ability and general awkwardness, meaning he couldn't communicate and get people on board. However, I would concede that people involved in ICU (especially Central Union) are difficult to engage and generally unwilling to commit to helping out unless they personally like the event/cause.

Jun 15 2008 10:20

Well, this is interesting.

RCSU's voice: Kilian said he had a "I don't give a toss attitude" to union politics, I agreed with him on the basis of that article. That has no bearing on what else he may have done which didn't involve such an attitude (apparently student activities, although I don't know how much of that he was responsible for himself).

These hacks which sit on committees all day are doing what they're supposed to do - talking to College. I have no idea how effective the RCSU has been at representing its students to the College, but not going to committees wouldn't be a great way of doing it!

Sabb salaries are nowhere near "50% more than a PhD student". Last year they got about the same as I did after tax (they aren't volunteers, they get taxed) and I was underpaid by my department. There's been an increase for this year, but the PhD pay rise won by Ben Harris last year means its probably still about the same after tax. He won that by sitting on committees, giving presentations and lobbying College staff, not by organising parties.

Kilian: I realise who your article was aimed at, which is even more unfortunate. You're trying to identify with a student population who are quite apathetic, by reinforcing their apathy. I didn't dismiss your views, I criticised what you said on the basis that because you "don't give a toss" you weren't actually aware of the issues, so your argument was flawed. I regularly post under my own name here, as I have been for 7 years, sorry if you don't like it.

"Half of College doesn't know or care about the Union" - but they *would* care if Hall Rents were already at ?250 per week, the RCSU had no office to organise its parties, coursework was always returned *after* exams, they got treated as slave labour when working for their departments, the Queen's Lawn got built on, the library was only open for 4 hours a week, Felix wasn't there to provide Sudoko on a Friday afternoon...

It's all very well using the argument that everyone in the union should be organising parties and big events all the time, but there are many other things that need doing. If you were to make clubs autonomous, they'd just have to form their own committees to make decisions about budget allocations etc. They would also have to find money to pay for the rent of College buildings, organise committees to ensure that College didn't take away Wednesday afternoons as a time for activities to take place, negotiate pricing for the facilities in ETHOS, have a committee to look after the welfare of their students to make sure they didn't fail under increasingly unacceptable workloads, etc etc.

The thing which *really* annoys me about this article is that students are finally coming out of their apathy. Over 4,000 votes in the original referendum, 2,500 votes in the ICU elections. It isn't as good as it could be, but it's much better than it has been.

People are taking an interest in what goes on, but all you can tell them is "I can't (or you shouldn't) be bothered to listen to the arguments, so we'll pay the money to the NUS, so other activities I deem unworthy can't have extra money".

Jun 15 2008 10:54

Too true Ashley! It's really worrying that someone in such a position should have no real idea about whats going on.

17. sonica   
Jun 15 2008 14:24

Ashley brown is spot on, comment 15 is well-written and actually backed up by logic, something kilian seems to ignore when he is writing articles. And if he didn't get 'half colours' for organising the first science challenge (which I might add was no where near on the same scale as the one jad and his team put together the following year) maybe it's because he didn't deserve them. And by the very fact that you're complaining about it kilian you come across as the kind of bitter old hack you're trying to criticise in your article!

He seems to like employing the argument that because imperial students are (according to him) all apathetic, those representing them should be too, otherwise they're not representative enough! What a load of b0llox! He then goes on to contradict himself by listing all the amazing contributions he has modestly made to Imperial life whilst ignoring all the people who work behind the scenes to improve things for students... It's them who really deserve the recognition of union colours, not some self-important old hack.

Jun 15 2008 22:03

""Half of College doesn't know or care about the Union" - but they *would* care if Hall Rents were already at ?250 per week, the RCSU had no office to organise its parties, coursework was always returned *after* exams, they got treated as slave labour when working for their departments, the Queen's Lawn got built on, the library was only open for 4 hours a week, Felix wasn't there to provide Sudoko on a Friday afternoon..."

Sorry Ashley, but I see that claiming that ICU is responsible for preventing all of that is to me the same as the NUS claiming that they single handedly achieved council tax exemption, tenants deposit scheme etc. Not to mention the fact that Queens lawn has been built on essentially for most of the summer.

I also feel that the decision to hold the referendum before the end of the year smacks of arrogance. The entire campaign for disaffiliation seems to be based around the "we know whats best for you" attitude. Just my thoughts...

Jun 15 2008 22:18

Rather arrogance than having to fork out another years worth of NUS affiliation.

Jun 15 2008 22:33
  • Hall Rents - successive DPEWs have gone to College committees and kept them from getting out of control. Bear in mind College has an effective monopoly for freshers, many of whom will pay more rather than try and rent privately in a new city. UNITE's private halls are far away (and much more expensive).
  • RCSU Office - was secured by the ICU President and DPEW working with the RCSU, combined with a clever protest by RCSU officers. Recall they tried to stick them in a dingy small basement room.
  • Slave Labour in Departments - Most departments pay their undergraduates quite a reasonable amount for demonstration/tours etc. ICU, through the faculty unions and student rep structure, is the body which is supposed to keep an eye on that.
  • Queen's Lawn - Live! broke the story, Felix picked it up, and ICU campaigned for the plans to build on it to be dropped. None of those activities are "parties", all are supported or funded by ICU in some way.
  • Library Opening Hours - 24 hour opening during exams is down to the ICU President negotiating it a few years ago. With no opposition College would have the freedom to only open the library when it is at its busiest, to save money.
  • Felix - is resourced and supported by ICU (and used to be funded, but must now be self-funding)

The Queen's Lawn won't have a marquee on it for most of this summer - the number of days has been limited. The original plan would have seen portacabins on it for t least 3 years and probably more.

As for any "we know what's best for you" attitude. The disaffiliation campaign this year is being run by people who've actually been involved and gone to conference, so perhaps that's why it comes across like that.

Jun 16 2008 00:27

"The entire campaign for disaffiliation seems to be based around the "we know whats [sic] best for you" attitude."

Wait, that was the argument of the 'yes' campaign from the Irish Lisbon Treaty referendum. You are confusing your referenda.

Jun 16 2008 10:33

Andrew, you didn't seem to think it was arrrogant when we had the discussion about when to call a referendum back in April. You said you were happy to help out.

Kilian, if you would prefer that us old hacks didn't sit around in college/union committee meetings all day talking about the ICU constitution then voting yes to the NUS is a great way to ensure that we spend all day sitting around at NUS conferences talking about the NUS constitution. One of these I consider to be a much bigger waste of time, money and effort.

Jun 16 2008 10:42

And I believe I said that I thought it would be better to have a referendum in the new term when people can be made fully aware of the pros and cons of each argument. I just get the impression that the whole thing is being rushed through by the disaffiliation campaign too quickly.

Jun 16 2008 11:03

The difference between holding a disaffiliation campaign now and one in the Autumn is ?46,000 and 3/4 of the disaffiliation campaign team having graduated.

If we don't reach 1,800 voters on turnout then the referendum is invalid. There is a very good safety net in place to ensure that turnout is high enough to make a decision. There are not 1,800 hacks. Either the decision is made by 'normal student' or no decision is made at all.

We may have taken a gamble with quorum to hold the referendum now but if we don't reach the required numbers we can still call another referendum in the Autumn: nothing lost. If we didn't call a referendum now we'd be signing away another ?46,000 just to wait a few months: quite a lot to lose. I'd consider that to be a no brainer.

Jun 16 2008 11:13

I was led to believe that the affiliation fee did not have to be paid until later in the year.

Jun 16 2008 11:22

The affiliation fee is paid later in the year, but the cut off point for disaffiliation is apparently 1st July - otherwise you stay in for the next year and have to pay the money.

A 'no' vote without quorum would actually be quite powerful in itself - it says "our students want to leave, reform or we'll get quorum at the next one". Unless only 20 people vote, in which case ICU would look like idiots.

Jun 16 2008 11:30

What a rubbish analogy, with Zimbabwe's voter fraud. A better example for the NUS is the USSR. If you don't like the result of the votes cast by the disrepresentative few on the far left who are the only ones to even bother standing for election, the obviously you are AGAINST DEMOCRACY.

Actually, in this case leaving the country seems a rather good idea, and there's nothing undemocratic about secession from a democracy. Consider, if Scotland voted to leave the United Kingdom, would that suddenly make the nation undemocratic? Hardly.

Lastly, the money here isn't wasted, it's used primarily by students for social and sports activites, which seems entirely valid to me, particularly compared to an annual p***-up, where the evils of free-market based meritocracy and the nobility of the workers can be discussed in detail by people who've never done a day's work in their life.

Jun 16 2008 11:32

Also, I do agree with Andy that the vote should have been held in the new term, as everyone will be too drunk and/or busy with exams to actually vote.

Though on the other hand, freshers all seem enamoured with the NUS, it takes a full year to see what a pointless piece of toss it is.

Jun 16 2008 12:53

Oh, one other point. ICU would have a bigger national voice *outside* the NUS, as we're one of the only Unions willing to listen to sanity, so we get quotes in the national press on these issues as an alternative voice. A good example of this was the national press reporting of the NUS conference, which quoted us rather than anyone else.

Jun 16 2008 13:41

This issue about the national voice keeps cropping up and I can't make my mind up about it. I'm not sure realisticly if Imperial's views alone will be listened to if we're not represented by a bigger organisation. We just don't have access to the government, sure we can write letters and stuff but will they actually give a damn. Although we're respected as a university our views aren't always representative of students up and down the country, so maybe we should be proud to have our alternative view in the national press but then what impact does it have? I think the NUS is poo, but then again they are our national voice, and also the extreme left are making noises about leaving which would mean we weren't so alienated. I would be interested to know if people actually think we need the NUS as a national voice? I do have high hopes that this year the top universities in London will club together and make an impact on thier own.

Also, I can't stop chuckling about the idea of the NUS as an insurance policy. The other way around me thinks.

31. Neil   
Jun 16 2008 14:37

Has college guaranteed that the affiliation fee will still be given to ICU if we are not affiliated to any other body?

As I remember it, the fee is ring-fenced and paid for separately by college - one of the original arguments for joining NUS after we disaffiliated from ULU.

Jun 16 2008 14:47

NO NO NO. This was a LIE spread by the NUS to unsuspecting freshers on the walkway (I know they spread it, they said it to me while I was walking past).

The money HAS NEVER BEEN RINGFENCED FOR NUS. EVER. The money from ULU was added to the subvention, it was up to us what we spent it on. The NUS lied, by saying that we might as well stay in, as we couldn't spend the money ourselves.

It is true that in some universities the money is ringfenced, but that isn't the case here. We got a one-off payment from College to make up last year's shortfall between what we got back from ULU and we had to pay to the NUS - the amount we get back from ULU increases each year until we no longer pay them any money.

33. Neil   
Jun 17 2008 09:33

Then as far as I can see this is a no-brainer.

I'm thinking about a lot of shiny new kit in dBs. Every year.

As long as the money is spent wisely...

Jun 17 2008 18:06

I don't care if the exec want to spend all the money on c**ppy awnings for the Quad (which I really hate to admit it but if you take a look at the Quad in the evenings, are getting alot of use, although I suspect that a bit more lighting on the otherside of the Quad would probably encourage more people to sit on that side too) as long as the money is being spend inside our own Union and more importantly our Sabb's time is spent working in our own Union (not in random NUS meetings).

Although I do like the "insurance policy" analogy, because most of those are pretty worthless and you usually find that you are covered on another policy or else you end up getting screwed over because you didn't read the small print.

Jun 20 2008 08:30

The affiliation is not meant to be analagous to an insurance policy! As we are paying ?46k we expect the NUS to deliver each and every year. What did we get this year? Nothing.

Are we supposed to keep throwing money at it in the hope that something will change? From what I gathered at the live broadcast the NUS President says big changes are occuring soon, and if we don't reaffiliate this year others will follow by dropping out. This is a clear sign of desparation and shows how strong Imperial's position is. I would rather we have our own independent voice than be associated with other students who study their 'degrees'.

What we gain we keep. Following like sheep with the masses, we lose. Simple as that.

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