On the 12th January, 6 Queen Mary students argued for and against the reasons to stay affiliated with the NUS. On the ‘for’ side, the President of QMSU – Miranda Black, Vice President Welfare – Adam Sparkes, and the Science and Engineering Faculty Representative for Student Council, Lewis Williams. Arguing ‘against’ remain in the NUS, there was third year history and politics student Lloyd Hatton, third year international relations student Eduardo Lopes and second year politics student Dan Mercer.
The discussion started with each of the debaters having a short period of time to argue their point before opening up the debate to questions.
On the pro side, they argued that the NUS offered invaluable support. In recent years, Queen Mary reviewed their policy on sexual harassment, and Miranda believes that, without the support and research that the NUS provided, this process would have been made much harder.
The guidance that the NUS provides was reiterated throughout the debate, along with the organisation’s 90-year history of fighting for liberation rights for the sake of the students. Supporters of the NUS also state that, during the last general election, through the ‘Generation Vote’ campaign, the organisation got 100,000 students from all political and racial backgrounds registered to vote.
Proponents of the National Union of Students wanted to iterate that the NUS has secured up to £10,000 loans for postgraduate students, 16-25 railcards and council tax exemptions for students. This was not the only economic incentive of membership they emphasised, being involved with the NUS means that Queen Mary receives reductions on the cost alcohol and other products for Union venues.
They frequently stated that the NUS is not perfect, but that QM cannot be part of the reform process unless it remains within the institution.
Opponents of the NUS challenged the notion that the organisation is of economic benefit to students. They view the NUS as a waste of money as QMSU pays them £50,000 a year and, in 2014-15, they received £16,500 in return. They also cited statistics which state only one in ten students gets an NUS extra card as it does not offer much more than students receive anyway.
They argued that other universities such as Southampton, Hull and Imperial College London have all left the NUS successfully and have negotiated deals with brands to give reductions which, in some case, have been better than the reductions offered by the NUS.
A major controversy the NUS has been accusations it is anti-Semitic and lacks inclusion. President Malia Bouattia claimed Birmingham University was a ‘zionist outpost’ and in 2016 the NUS delegates argues against commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day.
Those who are against the NUS also take issue with the structure of the institution. The NUS represent 7,000,000 students but only 380 people vote for the NUS president which means 0.005% of student are heard. They also stated that, although the NUS have fought for literation rights, the NUS is not the institution people think of when they think of liberation rights, there are many institutions which fight for this and therefore the NUS is not unique.
Whatever your opinion, it’s important that you vote.. This is a decision that affects students and can only be made by students. If you want to have a say go to https://www.qmsu.org/referendums/ and have your say.
You have till 4pm today to vote.
Image – QMSU