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York students push for NUS membership referendum

Image credit: www.marxiststudent.com
Image credit: www.marxiststudent.com
Image credit: www.marxiststudent.com

An open letter asking York to hold a referendum on its NUS affiliation has reached over 100 signatories.

After the recent NUS conference in Brighton, York students have become increasingly disillusioned with the path that the NUS is taking. In response to this, a campaign has begun to withdraw YUSU’s affiliation from the NUS.

Alexandra Nawrat, one of the campaign coordinators, has issued a comment to The Yorker.

“We are calling for a referendum on York’s affiliation to the NUS because we believe it is a fundamentally undemocratic and unaccountable institution. The changes upon which we continued our affiliation in 2014 have not been implemented; York’s OMOV motion was rejected at the most recent conference in Brighton. Trying to force democratic change from within the institution has not worked. The recent conference also saw the election of a new President with alarming rhetoric and we feel that her election and her position representing students constitutes a shift in York’s relationship with the NUS.”

A copy of the open letter has also been sent to The Yorker, and can be read below.

Dear YUSU trustees,


We, the undersigned students and alumni of the University of York, are deeply troubled by the University’s continued affiliation with the National Union of Students.


The National Union of Students, a campaigning group that once had the best interests of students at its heart, has become a self-serving organisation that works not to help students, but to divide and marginalise them. The NUS operates on a delegate framework, meaning that ordinary students do not get a say in the running of the organisation. While these delegates are elected, they are largely unaccountable to the students who elected them. As a result, NUS policy is dictated by a very small, very insular, and very political group of students who are not in any way representative of the UK’s student body as a whole.


One Member One Vote is pivotal to any democratic organisation. The right for any institution to elect its leaders and decide on motions and positions is imperative for any future mandate. YUSU reaffiliated with the NUS in 2014 upon the promise of change. However, not only has this been unforthcoming, but it has, in fact, been actively blocked by delegates who have no interest in democracy or representation. No University of York student would accept a delegate-based system for YUSU elections, so we should not have to accept it for NUS elections.


These issues came to a head at the conference in Brighton last week. The election of Malia Bouattia as the Union’s President dismisses any notion that the organisation is fit to represent students. Her mandate consisted of only 372 votes when the NUS claims to represent 7 million students, abnd her election is an example of a sectional clique claiming falsely to speak on behalf of all students. The fact that Bouattia has been condemned by over 40 Jewish societies at British universities, has described the mainstream media as ‘Zionist-led’, and has labelled her university, Birmingham, as a ‘Zionist outpost’ should be demonstration enough of the system’s shortcomings.


This follows the NUS request that universities drop gay men’s representatives from their LGBT+ committees, on account of the fact that gay men do not experience oppression within the LGBT+ community due to their identity as gay men, and do not warrant dedicated representatives on LGBT+ committees. York submitted parts to this motion, which were not heard due to time constraints. Acts such as this undermine the capacity of NUS to facilitate positive social change for students.


Furthermore, the continued contempt towards hard of hearing students at conferences only exacerbates these issues. Simple requests for whooping, cheering and clapping to be kept to a minimum during speeches were repeatedly ignored, to the disadvantage of the very people who the NUS claims to champion. All of this suggests that the NUS has become an insular association that is out of touch with the needs and interests of its members.


Like all organisations, the NUS is subject to change. Had we seen any hint of positive action at the conference in Brighton, this petition may not have materialised, and many signatories may be inclined to rejoin should we see such action in the future. However, at this juncture, it is clear that the NUS in its current guise is not fit for purpose. As an institution, it is obstructionist, intransigent and closed to reform.


We believe that YUSU’s continued affiliation with the NUS sends a message to Jewish students on campus that they are not wanted, to gay men that their struggles are irrelevant, and to political organisations that they are wrong. This is a pressing issue, and for these reasons, we demand a referendum, to be held promptly this term, on YUSU’s continued affiliation with the NUS, in order to give York’s student body an opportunity to affirm continued affiliation, or to separate.

The letter itself has garnered much support in the short time it has be active reaching one hundred signatories in six hours, as of publishing the count is at 119 signatories. The YUSU AGM is scheduled at 5 o’clock later today in YourSpace, where members of the campaign are expecting to propose the motion to hold a referendum on YUSU’s affiliation with the NUS.

Those wishing to sign the open letter can find it here.