A proposal to allow voting on whether or not to re-introduce the NUS Democracy card was unanimously rejected by the YUSU Trustee board on December 10.
Chris Northwood, a fourth-year Computer Science student who proposed the motion, which was referred to the Trustee board to decide if it would be allowed to be voted on at UGM, argued that the current NUS Extra card on offer is “value for money for some, but not every student at York”, and that students needed a “globally recognised” card that will provide sufficient proof of identification.
The motion under discussion urged YUSU to “immediately re-introduce NUS Democracy to students wishing to identify themselves as a student, but not wishing to take advantage of the discounts offered by NUS Extra.” Last year’s NUS affiliation referendum showed that student approval of the NUS is not universal at York. It is felt that the NUS Democracy card would be beneficial to students not wishing to pay an additional cost – YUSU last issued Union identity cards without cost in the academic year 2006/2007 – but the system now activates completely online.
A motion was passed to introduce Extra which now soon expires, but Northwood claims that “now we don’t have the power to either get rid of it, or even lessen its impact.”
YUSU President Tom Scott said that the Trustee Board’s “primary reason” for the decline of the motion was the cost of introducing the Democracy cards “versus what they’re actually useful for.” He felt that the “cost in staff time and effort of providing potentially thousands of cards – each of which the NUS would charge – could not be justified for providing a card whose only function here would be as a poor replacement for the university’s duck cards.” He said that the University cards “already function as student ID and allow entrance to NUS conferences.”
Northwood notes that the University of York cards are not nationally recognised and have no expiration dates, causing problems in particular for students when not in York, such as students on sandwich courses, visiting other towns and cities, and returning home for the holidays.
Matt Burton, YUSU’s Services and Finance Officer, was asked by Northwood if any figures were available to “back up his claim that reintroducing Democracy would severely damage the Union… but he had none.” Burton commented that the “Trustee Board voted against putting the motion forward to a UGM on the grounds of not being a good use of resources for the needs of the Union,” without providing financial information. He reiterated the problems of the card’s “impacts on the Union’s resources… and for what the cards purpose actually is, for taking part in democratic services.” It is reputed that YUSU make £18,000 from NUS Extra.
Currently, the NUS Extra card costs £10 to purchase, and offers a number of discounts at stores such as La Senza, Superdrug and McDonalds. However, its value for money has come under a degree of contention over the past few years. A Nouse investigation in 2006 revealed that the card was priced as high as £10 to alleviate NUS’ growing debt problem, which has developed from
years of mismanagement and unstable financial policies.
Haphazard communication with the companies supposedly offering discounts intensified the crisis, as many of the shops offering discounts admitted that they only needed proof of student identification to provide discounts.