Exeposé News Issue 632, Page 3 (8 December 2014) and Exeposé News online (8 December 2014)
Students began voting on whether Exeter will remain in the NUS and what majority should be needed to disaffiliate today. The two votes could mean that the Students’ Guild leaves the NUS in the next academic year, with the results announced on Friday.
Campaigners for disaffiliation claim the NUS no longer represents students. Describing the Union as bureaucratic, undemocratic and indecisive, the Yes Exeter campaign has condemned the £50,000 NUS affiliation costs, as well as the group’s decision to support lecturer strikes and marking boycotts over the past few years.
The organisation has come under fire for its refusal to condemn ISIS at its October NEC, while its failure to back last month’s national ‘Free Education’ demo sparked further controversy.
Meanwhile, No campaign supporters argue that the financial benefits outweigh the affiliation costs – citing the £140,000 of Students’ Green Unit funding and £16,500 sales income from NUS Extra cards, as well as pointing out NUS membership provides discounts on food, drink and stationery across Guild outlets.
Their campaign also stresses the benefits of remaining part of a national campaigning body, which this year helped overturn government cuts to the Disabled Students’ Allowance.
A DebSoc event titled ‘This House Would Leave the NUS,’ saw students vote decisively in favour of staying with the NUS two weeks ago.
The NUS has over 600 member students’ unions. However, several unions across the UK act independently from the organisation. Imperial College London left in 2008, while the University of Southampton has been disaffiliated since 2002.
Other non-affiliated students’ unions include those at the University of St Andrews, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Dundee University and Glasgow University. In May, Oxford University Student Union voted to leave the NUS: however, allegations of vote-rigging saw the result overturned.
Currently, 66 per cent of students would need to vote for disaffiliation for Exeter’s Students’ Guild to leave the NUS. But a Student Idea has prompted a referendum on whether this should be changed to a simple majority.
Reported in last fortnight’s Exeposé, the Idea “to have a fair vote on the NUS Referendum” was discussed by Guild Council on 26 November.
The Council voted to open the decision to students, with a Council member stating: “the alternative is us deciding what’s best. How do we know what everyone wants?”
“This is a change in the constitution of the Guild which all students should have the right to vote on,” added Guild President Rachael Gillies. Rejecting claims that holding two votes would cause confusion, Gillies argued: “our students aren’t stupid.”
A two thirds majority will be needed to change the constitution – meaning that if 65 per cent of students vote to leave the NUS and 65 per cent vote to change the constitution, the Guild will remain in the Union.
Voting for both motions closes at 5pm on Friday 12 December. Votes can be made at http://www.exeterguild.org.