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5 Common Anti-NUS Myths

Jun 17 2008 17:59
Soumaya Mauthoor
Live! asked each campaign team to debunk a number of 'myths' put forwards by the other side of the debate - the 'Yes' campaign's response is here.
5 Common Anti-NUS Myths

Yeah I know it?s me again. After the debate you would think I would be hiding somewhere in a hole. Unfortunately I don?t have personal access to as many sabbs as the NO campaigners, and considering the perfect timing of this referendum, we?ve found most Imperial students are revising, making it a little difficult getting volunteers...

Anyway, back to the topic at hand, common NUS myths.

1. Students' unions can work together on common issues, they don't need NUS

Well actually that?s not a myth, it is true! Individual students' unions can and do work effectively together on a lot of issues, but the vital question is whether this is true for national issues such as next year?s HE review. Although there are problems with NUS, it remains a hugely important organisation for all students. By being in NUS, we can actually shape and improve the way it functions. Just as NUS reformed its higher education policy at this year's annual conference with the support of ICU, it will seek to reform its governance structures in the next year with an overwhelming mandate established to do so. Imperial must be there with the majority of student officers to champion and deliver the change that is required, for the benefit of all students.

2. NUS is too different from Imperial to be able to represent us

NUS is very different to Imperial. 70% of the membership is made up of FE students, and delegates tend to come from an arts background. It has also been claimed that Imperial students are all tories (though this has never been proved), in contrast to the NUS? lefty agenda. But we are still all students! We all want good qualifications and facilities at an affordable price, and the most effective way of achieving this is through a strong national body. By staying in NUS, we will continue to ensure that national policies are in agreement with ours, and build alliances with other unions. By doing so, we will ensure that NUS is a balanced organisation to be reckoned with. And even if there are any policies that we do not agree with, ICU has the right not to enforce them, just as any other union does.

3. NUS wants to give our money to sub-standard universities

I finally read up on the National Bursary Scheme. Bursaries are non-repayable grants given to students from disadvantaged backgrounds and they're paid for out of our top up fees. However last year, many universities failed to allocate this money (£19,000,000 in fact) because the current system is overly complicated and innacessible. Surely a national, regulated bursary scheme would be a better solution? Imperial allocates more than the usual amount in bursaries, so there are fears a national scheme would affect this. But should we take such a short-sighted view? Scholarships for merit are unfair because they often benefit people who had access to good schools, rather than the most able. In addition a strong economy needs a skilled workforce in a variety of domains; if that means courses in golf-management, so be it, but at least fund them properly so they are more than just Mickey-mouse courses.

4. The affiliation fee is a rip off

ICU receives an annual £1.25m from Imperial College. This figure does not include money from other sources, such as bars, shops and rented premises. I asked the sabbaticals about ICU's turnover but I am still awaiting for an answer. According to John Collins, last year's President, ICU spent £15m over the last two years, including more than £3 million on the Beit Building alone. This makes the comparatively modest NUS affiliation fee (approximately £40,000) affordable in the context of the multi-million pound expenditure of ICU. Students attending other universities do not have to choose between a well-resourced students' union and NUS affiliation, and there is no reason why we at ICU should be forced to either.

5. The NUS is doomed

Well, no. NUS is in a better financial state than it has ever been. Last year it slashed its overdraft from £1m to £0.3m, and next year is on course to break even. Meanwhile, more than 65 per cent of delegates at NUS national conference voted, in agreement and with the crucial support of ICU's delegates to reform the democratic and participatory structures of the national union. The majority of NUS delegates agree with ICU, and the coming year is vital to ensuring that those arguments for reform are made a reality in the NUS structures.

Last year there was a record breaking turnout for the referendum when ICU decided to affiliate to NUS. We should not let this be overturned on the whim of a few individuals on Council who are trying to fulfil personal agendas rather than represent the best interests of students. We should not allow this vital year for NUS reform and the impending Government reviewing of fees and funding to take place without ICU's involvement.

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Discussion about “5 Common Anti-NUS Myths”

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 17 2008 20:58

I'm assuming Soumaya's opening comments about access to Sabbaticals were referring to the NUS Debate that was hosted by Live!

No Campaign 'Sabbaticals' present:

Stephen Brown, ICU President

Chris Mullan, KCLSU President-elect

Kirsty Patterson, ICU DPEW

Andrew Fernando, UCL DPEW

Yes Campaign 'Sabbaticals' Present:

Wes Streeting, NUS President

Richard 'Bubble' Budden, NUS National Secretary

Bubbles Mate from the Midlands Area

Laura Walsh, NUS member of Staff

Doesn't seem unfair to me. Except that the No Campaign don't have access to NUS resources to help.

Jun 17 2008 21:41

I'm going to have to strongly disagree with attempts by the 'Yes' campaign to paint this as "evil Council and Sabbs call referendum".

The fact is, the loudest calls for a referendum after conference were coming from the democratically elected NUS delegates, not the sabbs (who are apparently undemocratic, despite getting more votes for their positions than the delegates).

No-one from the Yes campaign seems to have gone to any conferences or really been involved, except maybe Camilla who chose to vote against the reforms.

In other words, the 'Yes' campaign is complaining that the people who've been involved in NUS, and given their time and effort to it, think they know what it's like more than the people who never actually took an active role.

Talking to Wes, Laura and Bubble made me think twice about which way to vote, but the 'Yes' campaign is using the same "it's undemocratic when elected representatives make decisions" argument that the loony left use at conference. That completely undoes any of the good work the NUS people may have done when they came in (as did Bubble's Mate, who seemed to basically say "ICU is s**t because I've never heard of anything you've achieved, and your students don't protest all the time").

Try and win the argument with facts and evidence, not whining because elected representatives chose to enact the greatest form of democracy there is - a referendum. The 15% quota rule exists to avoid cliques calling referenda, not advertising them and then getting their mates to vote. If we hit quota, it was a democratic decision. If not, then the decision is invalid so it doesn't matter.

Stop this "it's undemocratic and they're evil bureaucrats" bulls**t - Imperial students are smarter than that, which is why they don't take that c**p from the loony left at conference.

Jun 17 2008 23:50

I know this is immature but...

you got toldddd!

4. ps   
Jun 17 2008 23:56

you got the ICU turnover way way way wrong. Did you just make it up? And it's not just a question of whether we can afford it - it's whether the nus DESERVES the money. Just because a City boy can afford cocaine does that mean he should buy it?

And yes, the affiliation fee IS a rip off. That's a staff member's salary foing towards an organisation that doesn't listen to us, mocks us when we make speeches, bores us with irrelevamt arguments and definitely does NOT represent us.

And lastly - this says it all:

"1. Students' unions can work together on common issues, they don't need NUS

Well actually that?s not a myth, it is true! "

Jun 18 2008 09:51

This is the 05-06 report: No idea where this year's is, quite possibly exec considered it in closed session because it's "commercially sensitive" or some such c**p excuse.

Turnover excluding one-off income for Beit is around ?3m, however that's taking a simplistic view. You can't really consider that figure without looking at costs you have to pay - cost of sales, staffing, insurance etc. You'll see that in 05-06 we made a small profit, in 04-05 a large loss. As for 06-07, I have no clue because I can't find any financial statements in minutes (this stuff should be available to the members, and is published openly in the College annual report anyway).

There isn't excess profit sloshing around the place. Beit money is being awarded separately by College, at a political price.

Jun 18 2008 10:00

Financial statements for 06/07 were in an Annual Report appendix at the last Council.

Jun 18 2008 15:21

I'm assuming Soumaya's opening comments about access to Sabbaticals were referring to the NUS Debate that was hosted by Live!

I was referring to the fact this article was being authored by me. I think articles should be written by a variety of people, not the same old seasoned veterans, it's a good experience. However a lot of undergradute students on the YES campaign (and I'm guessing the No campaign as well, since only matty is a student and ashley doesn't really count) wanted to contribute but due to exam pressures had to back out.

Jun 18 2008 15:23

Why don't I count? :(

Jun 18 2008 15:25

Because you're a seasoned old veteran who is a SABB is all but name

Jun 18 2008 15:26

And pay of course

Jun 18 2008 15:58

Oh please, whether one supports YES or NO it's still the same proportion of students that have exams still - it's hardly affecting the yes campaign more than the no. As it happens, all the students I know including myself (!) who choose to support the NUS campaign support the NO campaign, apart from one whose brother's on the NUS committee. So stop whinging and making excuses for yourself and your campaign!

Jun 18 2008 17:09

Oi, less of the old please! ;)

13. Alice   
Jun 20 2008 19:03

Calling you old is probably the only thing she's said that I agree with.

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