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Opinion | Student politics: a hotbed of hostility and virtue signalling

The NUS is out of touch and largely unrepresentative, it must rethink its approach if it is to get students back on board

By Sabrina Miller, Opinion Editor

Nominations to become an NUS delegate have just happened. I know what you’re thinking. You’re obviously incredibly excited to involve yourself in this invaluable organisation. I’m well aware that you’re chomping at the bit to either run in the election or to cast your vote for the candidate that best represents you and your interests. That’s definitely what’s going through your mind right now.

Oh wait.

When I ran to become an NUS delegate more people asked me ‘what’s the NUS?’ than ‘what are your policies?’. Most of my votes were ‘earned’ by politely asking my friends, not because people thought me to be a particularly good or able candidate. I was supposedly elected to represent 30 000 students at Bristol university; I was elected with 170 votes.

Don’t forget to vote !!!

Posted by Sabrina The Teenage Delegate on Thursday, 11 April 2019

What does this mean? It means that a large majority of students have no interest or understanding of the NUS or what it actually does. The NUS is out of touch and largely unrepresentative. It has a limited understanding of what most students care about.  That is why official NUS policy includes  abolishing the monarchy, banning clapping at conference and boycotting Israel. Obviously all the key priorities of students up and down this country. Ultimately if the NUS wants to reach it's full potential, needs to rethink its approach, and focus on issues that are relevant to the student community.

The NUS is out of touch and largely unrepresentative

Nationally, the NUS has lost its’ legitimacy. In 2017 it was branded as “broken” by The Telegraph, in 2016 The Guardian asked, “Is the NUS beyond repair?”, and at its most recent conference the NUS almost went bankrupt after it was reported they were £3 million in deficit. Frustratingly this means that when the NUS tries to talk about something important, like liberation groups, or student housing, they often get ignored or overlooked.

I went and I tried to engage with this organisation.  What was incredibly ironic, is that whilst at NUS, I was terrified to share my political opinion.  A space that has been branded as ‘safe’ by so many, was for me, incredibly hostile. Opinion was viciously polarised, and everything felt passive aggressive and personal. I literally chewed my nails to the stub from utter stress.

I was whipped like a horse on almost every single one of my votes. I was voting for policy I didn’t understand, and for people I didn’t really support. It all felt  deceitful and I was uncomfortable the whole time. NUS isn’t about voting for what you believed in, it was about playing a game of politics, like something from House of Cards.

I was voting for policy I didn't understand, and for people I didn't really support

I’m not here to criticise the NUS for no reason. I did actually have quite an enjoyable time at conference (mainly because of the really interesting and passionate delegates I went with) but there are some deep flaws in the way this organisation runs.

The National Union students has so much potential. It could and should become an organisation that unites students, and represents their needs on a national level.  It can, however, only do that if it focuses on issues that students on the ground really genuinely care about. Housing costs. Mental health. Tuition fees. Liberation groups.

Please engage and please vote, but vote for candidates that will make NUS relevant again.

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