Hardly anyone is going to vote in the upcoming NUS referendum, just as barely a quarter of the University voted in the OUSU elections last autumn and even fewer really know what role any of the two institutions play in students’ lives. But this kind of blind apathy doesn’t mean that the NUS doesn’t work for students, and neither does it mean that we should terminate our relationship with the organisation.
There are certainly huge problems with the NUS. Their insistence on making self-righteous proclamations on broad political questions which are of no direct relevance to the majority of those they represent is frankly a waste of time. Even from a left-leaning perspective, it seems clear that the NUS has too much of a left-wing bias at times. The idea that delegates actually represent students’ interests or have some sort of truly legitimate democratic sanction is absurd. The NUS’s failure to cohesively oppose the introduction and subsequent increase in university fees is inexcusable.
However, the NUS also does a lot of good work; it serves as a united student body at a national level, and gives people the opportunity to engage in national student politics beyond the Oxford bubble. Whether it’s ensuring there is an equal access to graduate study, defending the right for thousands of students to benefit from the Disabled Student’s Allowance or the NUS’s environmental work, the Yes campaign has already elaborated on the benefits which the organisation has provided Oxford students within the past few years; but really, this isn’t about past records. By disaffiliating from the NUS, Oxford students would be barred from any future developments within the NUS, which are unlikely to have anything but a positive impact on Oxford students.
Fired by the recent rise in anti-EU mania, the Oxford right have decided to seize boisterously on the first opportunity to rally behind a ‘No’ campaign, without really considering its consequences. The simple idea of gaining some sort of ideologically libertarian success in their own playground is too much of a temptation. “Believe in Oxford” (Seriously – that’s actually their name) are using the same kind of diatribe that is employed by the worst kind of eurosceptic. Many of their concerns may be legitimate, and I even sympathise with a number of their complaints – but their presentation of the facts is flagrantly skewed.
Soon we’ll be told that a horde of nasty NUS delegates from Coventry or Nottingham are going to migrate to Oxford and take our jobs – and maybe even cause some flooding too.