Why I’m voting YES to NUS

Annie Teriba, OUSU’s Access and Admissions Officer, tells us why she’s voting to keep Oxford in NUS.

The re-affiliation debate is not one which should be decided on the pros and cons of the NUS Extra card; it is not one which ought to be decided along party political lines and it is certainly not one which should be taken lightly. The NUS is an invaluable institution for us as students and we should be a part of setting its agenda.

Any union which purports to represent its members’ views and concerns, needs to be political. It is not good enough to settle individual disputes with the university and government on behalf of students; the university experience of Oxford students is not just lectures at Exam Schools or tutorials in college; it is also the walks in between, on Cornmarket Street or through Rad Cam Square. The discrimination our liberation campaigns are fighting for doesn’t exist in a vacuum and so by logical extension, campaigning to eradicate discrimination from society is certainly in the interests of students – those who experience discrimination and those who stand with them as allies. Aims like this necessarily require national solutions and collaboration with other universities. This is the invaluable platform which the NUS provides.

At liberation conferences, our university representatives – our LGBTQ campaign officer, our Disabilities campaign officer and several others – have the opportunity to link up with people working on similar struggles at other universities. These conferences help us organise lobbying in favour of progressive government policy at a national level and give our officers the institutional knowledge and support in order to fight the battles within Oxford for things like support for disabled students and keeping rents low to make sure Oxford is accessible to everybody.

Yes, the NUS is desperately in need of reform; the national exec sometimes fails to listen to students, NUS conference is failing to engage students and many delegates come back frustrated. Nobody in this debate has said the NUS is perfect, the question at the heart of the affiliation debate is how do we bring about reform? Certainly not through disaffiliation. It is impossible to change the NUS as outsiders looking in and criticising, especially when we have alienated ourselves from the wider student movement.

We speak loudest when we speak together, that means joining with other universities to increase our participation in the NUS and supporting the people within the NUS who want genuine change. In Michaelmas, the criticisms levelled at OUSU council seemed awfully similar to what is being said about conference now. Council is changing, each time there are more and more newcomers; the way to change the discussion, is to first of all be a part of it.

Come Michaelmas, even if we disaffiliate, the NUS will represent over 90% of higher and further education institutions in the UK. It will still be the voice of students in the media; it will still be the voice of students when considering government policy and it will still be the voice of students which dominates the debate.

Believing in Oxford is not leaving the NUS on the path that it is on now, it is making sure that Oxford is an institution which is committed to engaging with and reforming the NUS. As Tom Rutland said at the OUSU husts, the more we put in, the more we get out of the NUS. If you are serious about NUS reform or national campaigning, you should be voting yes in this referendum.