Why Birmingham should stay in the NUS, according to the Guild President
It’s not just about keeping our student discount
Following the recent controversy regarding the NUS, our Guild President Jack Mably has reached out to the Tab to share his thoughts on the matter. Here’s what he had to say:
The NUS has had an interesting year to say the least and has made the headlines a lot over the last 12 months; not always for the right reasons. It would be wrong of me to say that I don’t think we have a problem within NUS and that the next 12 months will be incredibly tough for student unions across the country, some of whose students no longer feel represented by their new national president.
I am one of many student union officers who share the same concerns of students wanting to leave the NUS: the growing problem of anti-Semitism, the NUS choosing protests over pragmatic discussion, and the infighting that takes over conversations.
Here at Birmingham, the question on whether we have a referendum goes to a vote on the 16th May. Admittedly at first I was all for a boycott of the NUS – as one of the biggest and most involved unions in the country, what a statement this would send to the leadership that students no longer felt connected to their national union. Then I realised it’s the ability to be pragmatic and a willingness to work with institutions and governments to get the best deal for students that many student unions have in common.
By resorting to boycotts and protest, how are we different to the very people we are trying to challenge? The only losers here are students – students who will find themselves with no collective voice when there are problems facing higher education.
What have the NUS ever done for us?
We need to take pride in the fact that, when it came to the backdoor scrapping of maintenance grants, it was NUS that forced a debate on the issue in parliament and galvanised cross-party support in favour of students. It was the NUS who secured our exemption from the Council Tax, saving students hundreds of pounds each year. It was NUS who led the way in the fight for men who sleep with men to become eligible for the HPV vaccine. It was NUS who responded to student feedback and helped students’ unions across the country change extenuating circumstances to include rape and sexual violence. It was NUS who halted the DSA cuts last year and it is NUS who right now are trying to force debate in Parliament on the proposed scrapping of nursing bursaries.
It’s not just politics
While the politics play a huge part of the NUS and what it stands for, our national union has become so much more than that. The reason why Joe’s Bar is the cheapest place to eat on campus is thanks to the NUS purchasing consortium which saves us money when buying for our bar and kitchen!
The NUS has also played a part in helping students save money on a daily basis, whether its 40 per cent off at Pizza Express, 10 per cent off your shop at Co-Op, 12 per cent off your railcard or 5 per cent off a cheeky purchase from Amazon.
Plus the more cards that are sold here at Birmingham, the more money the Guild of Students receives, which again can be put into all the services that so many of you use.
In 2014-2015, we saved £19,822 through the purchasing consortium which is directly invested back into our student services, furthermore thanks to the purchasing power of 600+ student unions – we manage to save £65,000 on the cost price of food and drink used in the bar.
Thanks to the sales of 5,161 NUS cards in 2014/15 the guild received £42,700 in commission – this is the equivalent of almost all available funding to student groups or the amount of money used to fund the entire student rep scheme. On top of these cost benefits are the benefits that money can’t buy, the research that is done by NUS on housing, mental health, attainment gaps and much more that we don’t have to commission ourselves. The training for our staff members and officers helps us keep up to speed on the latest changes in higher education. Finally the seats in government meetings and select committees are something we simply can’t achieve as individual unions.
Malia has a tough year ahead and a lot to prove to students. While we continue to challenge her on anti-Semitism in the movement, it is also important we stand up against the Islamaphobic bullying of Malia. She has never supported ISIS, and simply withdrew and resubmitted a motion calling for condemnation. The attempt to brand her as an ISIS supporter is incredibly disingenuous.
Of those calling for disaffiliation, how many voted in this year’s NUS delegate election? This is where we have gone wrong. For so long we have ignored the importance of these elections, with little consequence – until this year. That’s why it’s more important than ever that we remain part of NUS because the problem can be fixed with increased voter turnout and a broader range of candidates!
So run for election, get yourself down to National Conference 2017 and let’s get voting for collectivism, pragmatism and a movement that truly reflects our student voice.
The Guild of Students nonetheless have respected the requests of students: on Monday 16th May you will be able to vote on whether or not we hold a campus wide referendum on our membership to NUS. Furthermore on the 19th May 2016 we will be holding a session in Guild Council Chambers alongside Officer Question Time to debate and further explore the pros and cons of being part of NUS. You can view and vote on the idea here and if you fancy coming along and taking part in the debate, then simply turn up on the 19th May to Guild Council at 6pm. Free pizza provided.