In response to  Whisper

Here in the UK we have National Union of Students (the NUS). Each university has their own branch with elected members, then there’s the elected national body. I’m not going to lie to you, apart from the work of the union to give us cheaper alcohol, run the on-campus shops and subsidies societies, I’m not even 100% sure what they do.

That might sound like a typical, apathetic teenager talking. I did politics A level, I take an interest in the politics both of the UK, European Union and America, I’m not exactly allergic to politics. But, what I feel it does show is the NUS’ inability to engage with students in the way that is needed to actually push through the policies they want to enforce (ok, so I do know a little more about what they do than just cheap beer).

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So, onto the topic at hand. The national body had their elections recently and there was a lot of talk surrounding one candidate for President, Malia Bouattia. Student news sites like The Tab were awash with articles, as were national papers. This was mainly due to perceived anti-Semitic  comments made by Malia – use The Tab link above to listen to a speech she gave and make up your own minds.

So, what happened next?

Well, Malia was elected President of the NUS and the NUS conference happened.

The conference is where things got… weird.

  • There was a motion over the need to recognise the problem of anti-Semitism – which is, of course, a good thing (and was passed), but it came about due to some delegates voting against Holocaust Memorial Day.
  • Votes of No Confidence kept happening – which The Tab reported as being due to people just wanting to waste time.
  • A motion was passed to put pressure on social media providers (such as Yik Yak) to limit anonymity.

Err.. What?

1 – votes of no confidence purely to waste time. That’s fantastic, it’s not like there are important issues you should be discussing. Or, you know, you could spend time informing people like me what you’re actually doing for us in a nice speech so we all feel part of the NUS.

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This probably sums up how most of us feel: disenfranchised, disinterested and unrepresented. (Comments from The Tab)

2 – If Malia’s comments are taken as anti-Semitic but other delegates are passing motions to look into anti-Semitism on campus can we really be expected to understand what the aims of the NUS and our representatives are?

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But, Malia has attempted to set the record straight, read what she had to say HERE The Tab) and HERE (The Independent). This, of course, can be seen as the dirty side of politics, where views are changed on the surface just to make bad press go away, but again, I’m not telling you what to think.

3 – Get rid of anonymity on Yik Yak (which most people use just for fun, but yes, there are issues surrounding bullying on these sorts of platforms) and something else will just take its place. The problem isn’t the fact that we are given anonymity, the problem is how we, as members of society, decide to use it.

It’s interesting that Malia and the NUS were attacked in comment sections and blogs all over the place. Anonymity was offered in some mediums, in others it wasn’t. In those where people had their names attached the comments appeared to be more thoughtful, make of that what you will.

Finally

To be honest, this post is my way of attempting to make sense of what on earth is going on with the NUS. So congrats on making it through my ramblings.

There are policies like the ‘no platform’ one that are deeply problematic, and then there are ones that genuinely do help some students.

Whisper it, but perhaps, like many movements/unions/parties/governments the NUS have simply lost sight of what they are meant to be about: normal students at UK universities who just want to make their experience at university the best it can be.

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