Students’ Union UCL is currently holding a referendum on their membership of the National Union of Students.
Last June, a motion was passed at the Union Council to put the question of NUS membership to the students of UCL following debates and referenda in universities across the country regarding their own NUS memberships. Now, the union is asking UCL students to vote whether they would like to remain affiliated to the NUS or not. Cast your vote here. Voting closes at 10.00am this Wednesday, the 25th of October 2017.
So why is the referendum happening? Arguments that “the NUS’ political direction is wayward and misaligned” have fuelled the referendum. The Leave campaign, headed by Sam Sherwood, argues that UCL should disaffiliate from the NUS because of its “politically insular” culture which represents the interests of its delegates more than those of the students it represents. According to Sherwood, “the NUS is a broken, unrepresentative organisation. We saw this last year, when delegates passed a motion claiming that gay men don’t need their own student reps because “they don’t face oppression”. We saw this when delegates applauded speeches condemning Holocaust Memorial Day as “not inclusive”.” The NUS was also criticised by politicians last year for arguments that were made at an NUS debate in favour of not commemorating the Holocaust.
NUS affiliation is expensive, currently costing Students’ Union UCL £58 000 per year, with this number is set to rise by 8% over the next 3 years. Many now believe this hefty fee is not worth the supposed benefits, especially because a lot of the NUS card student discounts, one of the most well known benefits of NUS membership, can now be obtained with standard university ID. Other opportunities are equally likely to remain open to UCL students should they disaffiliate. NUSLL – a buying group through which NUS affiliated universities can buy specific brands of alcohol at cheaper prices – is not the only option for procuring cheap alcohol for UCL union bars. Imperial is not affiliated to the NUS and their bar prices are now cheaper than UCL’s.
The ‘Remain’ campaign is seeking to highlight the lesser known benefits NUS affiliation provides. NUS assistance was vital to the successful Cut the Rent campaign, as well as to the successful boycott of the National Student Survey by UCL last year. In light of this, the ‘Remain’ campaigners are hoping to sway students by arguing there is clear evidence we are stronger fighting against cuts and privatisation with the help of the NUS than we are fighting alone. Jack Kershaw, who is heading the ‘Remain’ campaign emphasised that students across the country are certainly better off united. Speaking to Pi Media, he admitted most students don’t really know what the NUS is and that those who do believe it leans strongly to the political left. Whilst Kershaw concurred that the NUS is left-leaning and acknowledged some students are unhappy with this, he argued it is not true to the extent that some assume and it should not be a reason to encourage disaffiliation.
The union website claims students can attend an ‘open meeting’ to find out more. However, with 2 days to go until voting closes, there is as of yet no information when this link is clicked. The reason the referendum is only taking place now is because at the June 2016 Union Council meeting the issue was deferred to a general assembly meeting which never took place.
(Featured image credit: Students’ Union UCL)