NUS Slipping Into Crisis?
Written by Sean Benstead
This year, the NUS elected its first BME Muslim female President Malia Bouattia. With this came a wave of accusations ranging from her being a Terrorist Sympathiser, a racist and an anti-semite. Despite all of these allegations, which she denies, Malia has stood strong and reaffirmed her position as a president who fights for a more diverse and progressive kind of politics. Ms. Bouattia has been described as “a president who fights government policies and their attacks on students properly, and not just through rhetoric” by Mahamid Ahmed, a postgraduate rep on the NUS National Executive Council to The Guardian newspaper.
Within mere hours of Malia’s outstanding election victory the University of Cambridge called for a popular referendum on disaffiliation from the NUS. In the following week students studying at Oxford, York, Durham, Edinburgh, King’s College London and the London School of Economics called for referendums on this subject.
More recently, the University of Lincoln and Newcastle University have held referendums, ending in a disaffiliation campaign victory. The University of Lincoln’s SU (ULSU) President stated that:
“… we have felt the focus of debate within the NUS has been far removed from the issues our students tell us are important to them every day on campus.” She states that the executive officers at ULSU feel that they “no longer felt confident” that the NUS represents the views of the students at the University of Lincoln.
Despite the claim that the NUS no longer truly represents their students, they allowed a voter turnout of only 12.6% determine the union’s affiliation to NUS. Of 1,734 votes cast, 881 students voted for disaffiliation whilst 804 voted to stay affiliated and 49 votes classed as “spoiled”.
The NUS have stated that as a result of disaffiliation, the University of Lincoln is set to lose £15,932.05 in sales of NUS Extra cards, £121,122 in savings for students and £64,972.79 in retrospective discounts from purchasing deals. A total of £153,023.78. The University of Lincoln are said to save only £31,831.19 in affiliation fees. A difference in 77 votes in a university with a population of approximately 13,000 determined this regressive move.
It is clear that a combination of a spread of racism and fascism within University Campuses, along with mass political apathy, and perhaps the allegations against Ms. Bouattia, have provided a catalyst for the general feeling of under representation of students within the NUS to turn into calls to disaffiliate. But at a time when students are under attack, more so than ever, with the Prevent Strategy, rising tuition fees and scrapping of maintenance grants, unity among students is essential. Disaffiliation is nothing but regressive both financially and politically.