Written by the NoToNUS Team
December, 6 sees Southampton students decide the fate of our Union to the hands of the NUS. We, the NoToNUS team, believe affiliating would leave SUSU poorer, weaker, and less focused upon those who matter – our students.
Students are flooded with reasons to join the NUS but are all the Yes team’s arguments valid? SUSU has remained independent of the NUS for over a decade after disaffiliating in 2002. Our Union has since grown to be a successful, independent organisation much to the envy of unions across the country; so it’s no wonder the NUS want SUSU in their grasp.
What would joining the NUS mean? Well, firstly our Union would have to pay £51,000 per year just to be a member. Money that should be spent on our societies, sports clubs and events. It’s our students’ Union – we decide where that money goes, and we believe it should remain with our students.
The affiliation fee would allow SUSU access to a range of NUS services, services which SUSU has already implemented and excels at. For instance, NUS Digital, a generic website-in-a-box for students’ unions which struggle to develop such services; we at SUSU already lead in this area with our own website which leaves NUS Digital trailing in our dust.
The NUS also offers a range of training primarily for Sabbatical Officers. Since our disaffiliation, training offered by SUSU has improved to an extremely high standard, with a department of hard-working, enthusiastic and experienced staff to deliver it. Taking training from the NUS is an insult to our high-quality team and undermines their efforts to provide first-rate training to other staff and volunteers. We believe that the best people to train SUSU staff and students are SUSU staff and students.
The only way to partially offset the cost of NUS affiliation is by joining the wholesale consortium National Union of Students Services Limited (NUSSL). Currently, our bars and shops buy their products through other consortia or direct from suppliers at good rates and with full flexibility over what we stock and sell. Joining NUSSL would mean that our current products will change. The NUSSL dictates to our Union what we can and can’t sell, meaning your favourite food and drinks in the Stags and Cafe may become a nostalgic memory.
The NUS does however offer a fund of £120,000 for young entrepreneurs between every union in the NUS. If every student at each affiliated Union were to receive a share of that, they’d be given a measly 7.1p! Our Union and University already do much better offering similar schemes throughout the year: the recent Take Off scheme, with a £50,000 pot for our students, seems a better option and a far more direct benefit our students.
If SUSU wasn’t political enough, NUS throws a new spanner into the works with its own host of political infighting and party politics. This political chaos has boiled over in attempted censorship by ‘rogue’ officers, first at Durham and more recently at Leeds; these are clearly not isolated incidents. The NUS enforces a ‘No Platform’ Policy, denying political extremists their freedom of speech, and students the opportunity to make up their own minds on such issues.
Additionally, at NUS conferences, educational and student issues take a back seat whilst individual unions’ delegates spend time furiously debating issues such as solidarity with Palestine and Zimbabwe. Although these issues are important, this valuable time could be spent addressing more pressing problems in higher education, such as the £9,000 fees, which the NUS failed to prevent.
An oft-repeated point from the Yes team is that we don’t need to use NUSSL, or NUS Digital, or the like; but if we’re paying the NUS’ £51,000 affiliation fee, surely we ought to take full advantage of all the benefits?
If you look at the bigger picture, the £51,000 affiliation fee is money that would be better spent benefitting our Union and the many students who make it great. Our Union stands strong; it’s clear that the NUS wants us but we don’t need them. Vote NO to NUS on December, 6.