Campaign leaders for the rival campaigns, ‘YES2NUS’ and ‘Believe in Oxford’, have both been chosen by unopposed election.
OUSU President Tom Rutland, who heads the campaign to keep Oxford affiliated with the NUS, told Cherwell, “I’m excited to be leading the campaign. Whether it’s the access funds worth hundreds of millions of pounds NUS have saved from the cuts, the liberation campaigns they champion for LGBT, BME, disabled and women students, or the discounts over 2000 of our students enjoy with their NUS Extra Card, Oxford students benefit by being part of NUS and having representation for students nationally.” Around 10 people attended the “Yes” meeting. Among them was OUSU President-elect, Louis Trup.
Supporters of staying affiliated have emphasised the series of positive initiatives that the NUS has undertaken this year, including the securing of £45 million in postgraduate student support and saving hundreds of millions of pounds of undergraduate access funds from proposed cuts.
They also point to the fact that the NUS has provided OUSU with two grants of £1,000 this year, one for environmental work with the University, and one for its Student-led Teaching Awards, in addition to a further grant of £2,000 to start the OUSU Women in Leadership Development Programme.
Rutland commented, “The NUS has been an invaluable source of support to me and the officer team over the last year, and I know that next year’s team are keen to remain in and receive the same support. Disaffiliating from NUS would cost Oxford students money, isolate us from the national student movement, and weaken both unions. Hopefully when Louis Trup and I agree on something, it’s good for Oxford students – vote YES2NUS!”
Meanwhile, the campaign in favour of disaffiliation from the NUS is to be led by Jack Matthews, Geology DPhil student at University College, and Eleanor Sharman, a Philosophy and Theology undergraduate at Oriel.
Sharman told Cherwell, “What unites its members is a passion for change. A community has formed from common goals: denying the NUS’ claim to represent students at Oxford, and demanding that it open its doors to transparency. Believe in Oxford is a campaign financed exclusively by students here (with a donation cap of £25). It will only spend money that individual members of the University are willing to give.”
The disaffiliation campaign is not opposed to the NUS in principle, but objects to the current state of affairs. Matthews remarked, “For three years I have worked tirelessly to reform the NUS into an open organisation that actually works for students. What I have encountered is a body that has no interest in change, and that seeks to preserve the cosy arrangement of the status quo, to the detriment of its members.
“It’s time for us to stop wasting tens of thousands of pounds to an organisation that simply doesn’t care about our views. I believe in Oxford, and I believe in the strength of our Student Union – that’s why I will be voting ‘no’ to NUS.”
This is the first year that there has been a referendum in Oxford over NUS affiliation, after the University ceased to earmark funding specifically intended for NUS affiliation. OUSU is now free to decide whether this money is to be used to continue its relationship with the NUS.
The referendum on NUS affiliation, open to all students, will be held from Monday to Wednesday of 4th week.