Here’s why Manchester should leave the NUS

You can keep your discounts

In February this year, the LGBT representative for the NUS labelled Peter Tatchell, an activist who has campaigned for gay rights since the 1970s, as ‘transphobic’ and ‘racist’ . The representative, Fran Cowling, then refused to speak at an event with him. Following on from this, she refused to present any evidence of the claims she made and didn’t respond to Tatchell’s emails in which he offered to come to an amicable solution. The NUS was accused of no-platforming the activist, but have since denied this.

In the same month, the NUS banned Nick Lowles, founder of ‘HOPE not hate’, from speaking at an event. ‘HOPE not hate’ is an anti-fascism and anti-racism movement which is credited for opposing the rise of the BNP in 2009 as well as actively working against groups such as EDL and challenging hatred towards Muslims, yet the campaigner was stopped from speaking under the grounds that his views were Islamophobic.

Clapping has even been banned at conferences

Clapping has even been banned at conferences

In March, the NUS passed motion 408. This motion called for LGBT+ societies in universities nationwide to drop gay men’s representatives:

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It would seem that these issues have only started occurring recently, however, the problem extends to  2014, when a motion to condemn ISIS and show support to the Kurdish forces opposing them was voted down. A Black Students’ officer in the NUS went on to publicly defend this decision, claiming that it was an act of ‘blatant Islamophobia’ and ‘justification for war’.

This executive member of the NUS, Malia Bouattia, went on to become elected as the new president of the NUS in late April this year. Bouattia has been known to have made anti-semitic comments, even about her own alma mater, the University of Birmingham, labelling it as a “Zionist outpost” due to it having the largest Jewish student society in the country.

Malia Bouattia, NUS President

Malia Bouattia, NUS President

What Exactly are the NUS Trying to Achieve?

“We support and strengthen students and their unions. We are informed – developing research that influences national policy.

“We are active – taking on all the issues that affect students’ lives now and in future. We know students.”

Taken from their website, it’s already evident that the NUS seems to have contradicted itself this year. In light of recent events, the NUS has shown itself to be doing the opposite of uniting students and strengthening student unions. Does dropping cis gay LGBT representatives in any way appear to show unity or is it only undermining it?

“We fight discrimination, isolation and injustice. Through practical information and national action, we make sure students can thrive.”

How does the NUS fight discrimination, isolation and injustice by accusing cis white gay men to be the cause of problems within LGBT+ societies and by banning anti-racism campaigners?

“We know students.”

“We are students. We are 7 million student voices.”

It seems once again that the NUS seem to be a bit confused. Students value free speech and the flow of ideas. By enforcing the no-platforming policy to ban more and more good-willed speakers in student unions across the country, not only does this undermine the intelligence of students to be able to listen to opinions with an open mind but also distorts the reputation of our generation to older generations. It is for this reason that many students have started to feel discontent towards the NUS – they feel that it no longer represents their interests.

Manchester Students Union

Why should the Manchester students’ union leave the NUS?

This was published by the NUS in March this year:

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We can see that throughout the course of the year, we can only expect a development from the issues that were first addressed in this article. Don’t misunderstand the points I am making by this – I do believe that, ideologically, these ideas show potential towards making oppressed groups feel safer.

However, I’ve shown you by this stage, that the way it has been enforced has been shockingly riddled with hypocrisy, and from the looks of things, it’s doubtful that we will see an improvement.

The NUS doesnt think that gay men experience oppression

The NUS doesn’t think that gay men experience oppression

In Manchester we have the largest Students’ Union in the country. It almost seems like a joke that despite the diverse student voice, we stopped free speech in a debate about free speech. When we were ultimately allowed to go ahead with the debate, what we found was that no harm was done to either sides and people who disagreed with the views of the speakers had an opportunity to challenge them as adults. So why is it that we are still backing an organisation which treats us like children?

Even if we decide to take this chance and stay, we have to consider everything which we stand to lose. Universities are a breeding ground for new and exciting ideas: students can accept or have contrasting views and compare them with the views of others, but what happens if the pool of opinion starts to reduce in size until all that is left is what is deemed acceptable by a select few?

As of today there are 12 student unions which aren’t affiliated with the NUS. Maybe it’s time for a 13th member to step into play. Who’s with me?