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Should we stay or should we go?

News writer Beth Gregory discusses the upcoming vote which will determine whether Cardiff Students’ Union will remain part of the NUS.

Cardiff Students’ Union pays £55,000 a year to be represented by the NUS. But a recent campaign has called for Cardiff University to no longer be affiliated with the NUS, claiming that there is no value for money and that they are not providing the true service they should be.

The NUS claim that they are “the national voice of students” and that they exist to “promote, defend and extend the rights of students and develop and champion strong students’ unions”. However, it seems that collective student opinions are challenging the idea that the NUS promote and defend students and their unions.

The ‘No to the NUS’ campaign, based in Cardiff, argues that the NUS no longer effectively represent students, that it has failed to protect its students and that it is a waste of the Unions money. The ‘No’ campaign stresses that the NUS’s President is voted in by a minority of the millions of students across the UK, which it believes to be totally undemocratic. Organiser of the ‘No to the NUS’ campaign, Jacob Harris, says that his campaign is “committed to fighting a fair campaign that debates the issues”.

It is clear that lately the NUS’s popularity with students has been falling: an inanimate carbon rod (as inspired by an episode of The Simpsons) has been nominated as a presidential candidate for the NUS. This is due to the belief of some students that the NUS has lost touch with ordinary students, and that an inanimate object could do a better job of running the NUS. Even if this rod doesn’t win, it certainly makes a point of many students’ begrudging views of the NUS.

While it may seem to many that the NUS is, or should be an important part of Cardiff Students’ Union, the ‘No to the NUS’ campaign highlights the many ways that the NUS is restrictive of the Union and how the Union would cope better without it. On their Facebook page, it is pointed out that many unions, including the major Scottish universities, cope perfectly well without being a member of the NUS. They say that by not being a member, there is much more democratic freedom. Furthermore, all the money that would be saved by not being a part of the NUS could be spent on sports clubs and societies – things that are truly important to many students. The ‘No’ campaign argues that the elected representatives of the Cardiff Students’ Union would do a much better job of “representing, defending, and protecting Cardiff students”. It seems unclear what would actually be lost by not being part of the NUS. Even the ever-important student discount wouldn’t suffer, as we can still use our student cards to obtain discounts. As Chris Williams, Head of Student Media at Cardiff Students’ Union, points out on the ‘No’ campaigns Facebook page, “Their flaw is that they (the NUS) represent ALL students – not just those who are in the NUS, therefore, even if we leave we will still get the supposed benefits everyone else does, we just won’t be paying for it”.

Of course, while lots of students are keen to say goodbye to the NUS, many other students are fighting to protect it. An opposite campaign, ‘Keep Cardiff in the NUS’ is also being run. They argue on their Facebook page that 80 per cent of students are satisfied with the NUS – doubling over the last 5 years. They state that “The NUS is constantly improving”. ‘Keep Cardiff in the NUS’ argue that the potential financial benefit of not being in the NUS is only “half the argument”. According to this campaign, by being a part of the NUS we have a national voice, a more effective union and greater support. The campaign to keep Cardiff in the NUS makes a compelling argument that they are protecting “our right to be heard about tuition fees, university funding cuts and the low Student Union beer prices”.

The idea of the low beer prices in the Union being protected is probably an important priority for most money-conscious students, yet as the ‘No’ campaign points out, the NUS are planning to introduce a minimum price on alcohol, which will make it difficult to keep drinks prices cheap. However, ‘Keep Cardiff in the NUS’ argues that “The reality is that minimum pricing would only affect cheap, highly alcoholic beverages such as ‘White Lightning’ cider and its counterparts, none of which are sold at our SU”. They continue to say how “the ‘No’ camp has provided absolutely no plan whatsoever as to how we would save money by buying alcohol from suppliers individually”. The ‘Yes’ camp insist, “Such campaigns cannot be quantified in monetary terms”.

Second year student Liam McNeilly, who supports the ‘Keep Cardiff in the NUS’ campaign agrees, stating: “I don’t think a price tag, which isn’t that substantial in the grand scheme of things, should dissuade us from remaining a member. If we have issues with the NUS, let’s fight to make changes and make it stronger, rather than weakening a Union that gives students a national voice”.

Both the ‘No’ and ‘Yes’ campaigns on this issue have gained increasing popularity from students and workers within the Union. Both have compelling arguments, which can be viewed on their Facebook pages ‘No to NUS Cardiff’ and ‘Keep Cardiff in the NUS’. Whether the Cardiff Students’ Union will stay in the NUS or not will be voted on in April and will, whether positively or negatively, affect the way our Union is run and operates.

 

Beth Gregory

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