"No to No-Platform: An Open Letter" – a Response

This is written by the Yes2NUS team in response to the recent letter by a group of editors for the Wessex Scene who have (understandably, given their background) been concerned […]

This is written by the Yes2NUS team in response to the recent letter by a group of editors for the Wessex Scene who have (understandably, given their background) been concerned about NUS’ No Platform policy.

We want to reassure people that national policy for NUS will have no bearing on SUSU policy, and will not be required to conform to it. In our opinion, the letter approaches the way to resolve and tackle the policy of No Platform in the wrong way, as, by being non-affiliates, we currently have no say on NUS policy.

We are extremely concerned that the letter specifically requests that “all students of our university that were planning to vote in favour of affiliation should abstain from voting”, not just because it targets just the ‘Yes’ voters, but also because it is actively asking people not to participate in democracy.

The letter refers to this open-letter written by Aaron Kiely (NUS Black Students Officer) – which we feel was completely wrong in terms of its message. It is a single rogue officer, who has only managed to gain the support of four other National Executive Committee members (out of 49), and has since been called out for speaking out of turn by the NUS President. The point being that, whilst they may personally believe in the No Platform policy, and have to follow it as national officers, they hold no power over a Union following suit.

The article goes on to say that the No Platform policy has been “arbitrarily re-interpreted and abused since its inception and has been used to justify shutting down debates and censor student media in universities across the country”, which is also incorrect.

Keele, Oxford, and Leeds have all had students from their university propose the motion to adopt the No Platform policy, and subsequently agreed on it. This means that any event running at these Universities would need to abide by the policy. The fact that the Leeds article in question still remains up is a sure sign that the NUS is unable to censor Student Union media.

SUSU does not currently have a No Platform policy, meaning our media are free to interview whoever they like, and it will remain that way, regardless of if we affiliate to the NUS or not, until a Southampton student suggests it AND our Union Council approves it.

It is extremely important that we realise that NUS Officers are NOT allowed to interfere with Union matters unless asked for. They are there to support, not dictate, and Unions own the right to tell them to go away if they want to.

It’s great that students are so passionate about the topic – but it has little bearing on SUSU and shouldn’t be used to dissuade others from voting.

The letter demands that the policy be dropped before students vote in favour of affiliating. This fails to acknowledge that it was the members of NUS who voted for the policy at their National Conference, made up of delegates from affiliated Unions. In fact, it is only BY affiliating that we can help shape this national voice, so if the goal of the letter is to have an impact on the policy, then they should be advocating for students to vote yes, rather than effectively the opposite by asking yes-voters to not vote.

Finally, all students should be encouraged to vote. The last referendum had 3,400 votes out of roughly 23,000 students. Students abstaining because of this policy will be simply amongst the mass that either didn’t know, couldn’t decide, or didn’t necessarily care about the referendum. For that reason, students should always vote if they feel passionate – even if it means voting no.

The important thing to remember in all this is that if we affiliate, policies at SUSU will still be formed in the same way they currently are – by discussing it at Union Council or at the AGM. We don’t need to adopt NUS policy.

This policy also needs to be put into context amongst the whole raft of other things NUS provides Students’ Unions: a national voice, expert training, support for campaigns, research, discounts, a nationally recognised employability award, and the chance to integrate with students across the country in a much more effective way.

We hope that this response clarifies a few of the misgivings that the letter outlined.