Why York should leave the NUS

The NUS are conning students, this cannot go on

How can one sum up the NUS? The organisation, which professes to be seven million students strong, has claimed to be the voice of students for years – long before any of us were born. However, it appears that this organisation is teetering, with disaffiliation campaigns springing up across the country. The obvious question to this is why? How has an institution that claims to represent more than 10 per cent of the British population found itself in such a place?

There is one statistic that answers this question. If there is only one thing you hear in the upcoming debate, make it this: at a time when students across the country are struggling – when maintenance grants are being cut and people like us are struggling to avoid debt – the NUS, the very organisation that claims to protect students from these abuses, doles out £100,000 for its CEO every year. This isn’t static though, it’s actually rising. In 2013, the man who runs the NUS received a 16 per cent increase in his salary and the NUS now refuses to release how much further this has risen in more recent years. This, while teachers, nurses and university staff are receiving pay rises below 2 per cent and barely above inflation.

When students are struggling to feed themselves, the people who run the NUS think that it is appropriate to give their mate a six figure sum of money EVERY YEAR.

All of the NUS’s discounts are available for free elsewhere. Newcastle has already voted to leave.

In York, we, as a union, give £50,000 annually for the privilege of affiliation. Think about that. Fifty thousand pounds. Imagine what we could spend that money on. Better provisions for struggling students. Improving university facilities. Getting underfunded societies the equipment they need. Or, students who often live below the poverty line could help to pay a six figure salary and support an organisation that is utterly out of touch with the very people they claim to serve.

And what do York students get for this money? For one, the NUS claims that it’s NUSextra card saves students money, but this is false. It in fact makes them pay for a card which gives students the same discounts found for free on the website UNiDAYS. Supposedly, they receive representation. However, even this is barely present. When one reads the Independent or the Guardian, we don’t expect total balance – that’s impossible – but how many of us think that they’re part of the “Zionist controlled media”? Not many, I’m sure. These though are the words of the new president of the NUS, Malia Bouattia. Someone who will be the face of all students is trotting out the same worrying tropes frequently used by far right groups. Is this representative of students? Is this fighting on their behalf?

Only 372 people voted for the new president, who claims to represent 7 million students

However, this issue is not about one person – it is about a fundamentally broken organisation. Bouattia may not have been elected if individuals were consulted, but the NUS does not see fit to give students a direct say in who is speaking for them. This has resulted in a clique controlling the organisation, and one that will not give power to its members. For the past six years multiple unions have tried to bring about a one member one vote system, where all students would receive a say in who represents them, but motions have always been filibustered. This year, when Ben Leatham was finally able to speak in favour of a democratic system, his motion was shot down to cheers of the NUS delegates.

Worse, this group has repeatedly shown that it simply does not care about Jewish students. In the very same week that the NUS condemned anti-Semitism, they pushed Jewish students out of the anti-Racism, anti-fascism campaign by taking away their place as co-convenor. Not content with that though, many delegates at the recent conference in Brighton thought it acceptable to cheer speeches arguing against memorials of the Holocaust.

Let that sink in. The organisation which represents you as a student, heard and applauded a speech which argued against a memorial commemorating the 6 million Jews, sexual minorities, Romanis and trade unionists systematic slaughtered by the Nazis.

This cannot go on. The NUS is unworkable and unacceptable. Students cannot sit idly by and watch as the NUS pays off its mates and attacks Jewish students. The NUS is not progressive. The fight against it is from all sections: Labour, Lib Dem, Green and Tory.

We have one option and one option only: disaffiliation.