‘No2NUS’ campaigners one step closer to referendum

The group aim to persuade YUSU to hold a referendum on NUS membership by the end of term

Image: NUS

Image: NUS

The York NUS disaffiliation campaign has submitted a policy to YUSU which is designed to get a referendum on membership by the end of term, Nouse has learned.

The group, which contains members of most campus political societies as well as other interest groups, has also started a petition calling for YUSU to organise the early referendum, ahead of the vote originally planned for 2017. The policy which has been proposed by the ‘York says No2NUS’ campaign calls for the Policy Review Group to disaffiliate from the NUS over the failure of certain democratic reforms.

The proposed policy was submitted to YUSU on Sunday evening. It will first need to be analysed by the Policy Review Group which gathers the opinions of various stakeholders such as college chairs and liberation committees as well as the YUSU officers.

The proposal, which can be read in full on Nouse’s website, calls for YUSU to disaffiliate from the NUS because the “NUS’ internal processes are fundamentally undemocratic, with all of its policies, internal elections, and major decisions being made by delegates who generally serve one term, and are thus unaccountable to their student bodies”.

The policy further states that the current “NUS’ leadership is wildly out of step with the collective mood of students across the country, and so it represents only a very narrow slice of the national student body”.

The policy also highlights that several other universities are not affiliated to the NUS, such as Southhampton and St Andrews. The policy concludes by calling on the Policy Review Group or YUSU to disaffiliate from the NUS and for the referendum cycle to change from every three years to every two years.

It is widely expected that due to the controversial nature of the policy, a University-wide referendum is likely to happen. The group has also started a petition based around the open letter, which was published by Nouse. According to the disaffiliation group, the petition has accumulated over 300 signatures in 2 weeks.

Stephen Harper, one of the leaders of the York No2NUS campaign, commented about the policy and petition: “It allows York Students to enter a national call for reform within the NUS that becomes louder with every campus that joins. Voting on it now rather than next year allows us to be a leader rather than an echo in the call for change.”

However, YUSU’s next Community and Wellbeing Officer Dom Smithies has called for NUS-skeptics to convince students that remaining is a better plan. He told Nouse that, “The question isn’t whether the NUS is flawed and has significant room for improvement, few dispute that. What matters is whether we will be *better* off without them. I’m yet to be convinced that we will be. For all I hear ‘we could do that ourselves’ I’m not hearing of its actual viability, of an alternative substitute or that doing so is an urgent necessity that justifies temporarily sacrificing the benefits.”

Smithies concluded that, “[I] won’t allow myself to take part in some kind of Game of Thrones political power play where the necessary support & empowerment the NUS provides for liberation groups is used as a bargaining chip. The massive benefits cannot be disregarded and it seems to me more worthwhile to make positive change from within than to have to build from the ground up trying to regain all we lose by disaffiliating.”

When asked for comment, YUSU president Ben Leatham said “As an organisation we will not be taking a stance but are committed to ensuring there is a robust debate around NUS affiliation.

“We will be releasing information and data in due course about what being a member of NUS currently means for York students. All of the officer team are free to express their opinions on the matter as they see fit.”

University Registrar David Duncan also commented: “The University does not have a position on whether or not York should be a member of the NUS.  We look forward to the results of the referendum with interest, but this is solely a matter for the student body.”

 

Read the full policy proposal below:

 

This motion believes:

a) National Union of Students (NUS) is an organisation which purports to represent the interests of students across the United Kingdom

b) While an explicitly non-partisan organisation, it has long been associated with radical left-wing politics

c) YUSU holds triennial referendums to re-affirm whether or not they shall continue to be affiliated with NUS

d) In its current format, NUS’s drawbacks outweigh its benefits to a majority of students

This motion notes with concern that:

a) NUS’s internal processes are fundamentally undemocratic, with all of its policies, internal elections, and major decisions being made by delegates who generally serve one term, and are thus unaccountable to their student bodies

b) NUS’s leadership is wildly out of step with the collective mood of students across the country, and so it represents only a very narrow slice of the national student body

c) While NUS exists in its current format, it will never be representative of the students of this country, and will never provide them with adequate, effective representation

This motion further believes:

a) Key to these reforms should be an introduction of One Member, One Vote (OMOV) candidate and policy selection

b) That if the NUS cannot be internally reformed, it is vulnerable to external pressure via disaffiliation

c) Similar external pressure to implement OMOV and reform practices via mass disaffiliation was successful when University Labour Clubs were disaffected with Labour Students for comparable reasons

This motion further notes:

a) York’s NUS delegates have made multiple attempts to implement OMOV

b) The efforts of York’s NUS delegates have been blocked or voted down on each occasion

c) Achieving democratic reform in NUS has been a passionate effort of York’s NUS delegates, but the resistance from NUS is overwhelming

d) Student Unions including, inter alia, Southampton and St. Andrews, have successfully disaffiliated from NUS

This motion calls for:

a) YUSU to disaffiliate from NUS at the earliest possible opportunity

b) YUSU to hold elections for NUS reaffiliation biennially

c) YUSU to support a policy of NUS reform including, but not limited to, implementation of OMOV, and to work with other organisations such as SUs to promote this reform where relevant

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