Matt Wilson-Boddy: ‘Why you should say No to NUS’

What do we get in return?

As part of The Tab Newcastle’s NEXIT week we asked Matt Wilson-Boddy, second year computer science and leader of the No to NUS campaign, to share his views. Matt has also been an NUS delegate representing Newcastle.

I went to the NUS conference with the hopes of changing it for the better. What I saw there was a mess of bizarre cliques, unrepresentative policies and career student politicians. I felt it was time that students at Newcastle had their own say.

The NUS consistently fails us- it failed to stop rising fees, it failed to stop grant cuts and it has failed to protect vulnerable students across the UK.  It has the power to utilise hundreds of student unions to run real and effective campaigns, and yet it continues to waste time and resources on ridiculous farces like recognising video games as sports and banning YikYak- meanwhile Newcastle Students’ Union gets to pay £51,395 a year for the honour of being involved in this charade.

The yes camp know this, and are scraping the bottom of the barrel to find NUS “victories”. They talk about the NUS Card- a discount card which a small fraction of the student population have- without mentioning you can get almost all of the same deals elsewhere. They act as though the NUS is the driving force behind the Tenancy Deposit Scheme, saving students from unfair landlords, when in reality the charity Shelter led the charge for the scheme. In their official campaign video they even lie about the NUS maintaining the Disabled Students Allowance- a complete falsehood: the DSA has been cut this year, the strongest claim they have is to have delayed it a few months. I suppose they are right on council tax- the NUS did campaign to exempt students from that- although that puts their last “victory” all the way back in 1992.

“Representing over 7 million students” is the tagline the NUS loves to stick on all of their promotional materials, yet it’s hard to believe that a union with leadership elected by roughly 350 votes (or 0.005% of the student population) could possibly be representative of 7 million people. It’s even harder to believe they could be representative of Newcastle students- none of our delegates had the chance to speak at conference, and not a single one of the motions put forward by NUSU was even discussed.

This lack of democracy is something the NUS is wilfully ignorant of. Just this year, they voted overwhelmingly against the idea of One Member One Vote, in which all students would’ve been able to vote in leadership elections. Who can blame them when the NUS allows them to get paid to mess about in student politics long after they’ve left university, become president and get catapulted into a well-paid Labour party job (as almost all of the presidents from the 60s until now have done).

Let’s not just call the NUS ineffective however- let’s say it how it is: it’s harmful. Last year a group of student protesters were denied their basic rights over several days- because the Society and Citizenship officer was too lazy to respond to their requests to tell them what they were. Only months ago the NUS told LGBT societies to remove their gay men’s rep because they “don’t face oppression”- the year after violent hate crime against gay men rose 22%. The NUS’ own full time Disabled Students Officer said that she and her black, women and trans colleagues were regularly abused and ignored during her time in the role and that she’s “tired of watching weak ‘priority campaigns’ that fail to represent oppressed students while the entire education system falls apart”.

I cannot possibly endorse, never mind give money to, a union which is dominated by the personal agendas of leadership while they turn a blind eye to their own ableism, racism, sexism and transphobia that leave a full time officer “wanting to die”.

Once we leave, we will be able to run and join campaigns as an independent student union, we will be able to bargain for our own deals and discounts and we will be able to spend our affiliation fees on helping the students of Newcastle- and we will do so in a directly democratic NUSU. The yes campaign don’t believe in the abilities of Newcastle students. Vote No to NUS and show them what we can do.

Students can vote whether or not they want to remain part of the NUS until Thursday (12th May) by clicking the link below: