Referendum on NUS affiliation begins at University of York

From the 1st to the 7th of June, York students will be able to vote on whether the University of York Student Union (YUSU) will remain affiliated with the NUS.

After campaigns of their own the universities of Hull, Lincoln, and Newcastle have disaffiliated. However the universities of Exeter, Warwick, and Surrey have chosen to remain affiliated.

A successful campaign by the ‘No2NUS’ group has led to an early referendum on NUS affiliation being called in York. For the results to be declared valid at least 5% of the student population havew to vote.

Following claims that the NUS ‘harassed and intimidated’ Exeter students into voting to remain, including taking advantage of peoples confusion and misunderstanding to garner extra votes, the student union at York has guaranteed that no representatives from the NUS will interfere with the campaigning.

‘No2NUS’ coordinator Alex Lusty, who will shortly become the YUSU Activities Officer, wrote on Facebook that the controversy of anti-Semitism surrounding the new NUS President could have been avoided if the NUS followed direct democracy:

… She received 372 votes to become NUS president, with almost 7 million members not given a vote in this. Now, if students had a say in this – if you or I had a direct vote, she may not have been elected and this controversy may never have occurred.

One thing is clear though – the vast, vast majority of students do not support her, or the direction of the NUS. It is claimed that the NUS is giving students a voice – in fact, it is doing the opposite, and removing any dissent from its line of reasoning. The NUS does not represent students and does not care about students. For them, it is all about their political agenda.

This is why we need to disaffiliate. By leaving, we wouldn’t be losing our voice – we would be finding it! York students would be free to campaign on what York students care about – no longer would we be tied to a political fringe group. We could actually engage in politics on a scale that matters to ordinary students and encourage ordinary students. By disaffiliating, we are replacing the voices of 5 delegates with 18,000 students. This is why disaffiliation is the progressive option. The yes campaign is right in saying that we are better together. However, we must be united in purpose rather than hamstrung by an organisation that no one, not even the yes campaign, fully supports.

Ben Leatham, the current YUSU president, argued on social media that while the NUS is flawed, it would mean a huge financial loss for York to depart it, as well as a loss of support.

Support for our liberation networks who are working tirelessly for the most marginalised on campus, whether that be through tackling sexual harassment, ableism or transphobia. These issues may not affect you, but leaving the NUS will have a huge impact on the people who need the support most.

Support for our Union staff members who have oversight over all the societies, sports teams, course reps and events on campus. Regardless of what you think of YUSU, we would not be as effective as a Union if we disaffiliated from the NUS.

Support for your YUSU full time officers who get trained by the NUS, who are introduced to networks of people from across the country by the NUS, who have access to resources they wouldn’t otherwise have because of the NUS. The work Scott and I have been doing around mental health has been drawn from support and resources offered to us by the NUS Disabled Students Campaign. The impacts are tangible.

Support for any University of York student who wants to run a campaign. Whether that be around rising tuition fees, inadequate course feedback or the living wage…

There is a full argument by the ‘No2NUS’ team which can be found here. The same opportunity has been extended to the ‘Yes to NUS’ team. A link to the voting is provided here.

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Harry Phillips

The current managing director of The Yorker 2016/2017. A physics student who writes when he can. Any concerns about my articles or anything on The Yorker, feel free to email me: director@theyorker.co.uk