NUS Power Struggle: What Will Become of the Student Voice?

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Megan Dunn only started her term as NUS president back in July but already finds herself the centre of controversy when she was censured by the NUS’s national executive committee (NEC). Ms. Dunn was accused of breaking the union’s policy on boycotting Israel by accepting sponsorship for an event from Coca-Cola that was then a target of the boycotting campaign.

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Megan Dunn

This decision then lead to bitter rivalry between Dunn and the NEC with her calling the subsequent NEC meeting a disgrace. Most recently however, and perhaps most significantly, a group of student activists have signed a letter accusing Ms. Dunn of ‘autocratic’ behaviour and of ‘abusing’ her power as president of the NUS, with recent decisions such as withdrawing support for a campus tour opposing the government’s Prevent counter-terrorism strategy, which even her vice-presidents were against.

From this internal politics two main questions seem to arise. Where has this new found militancy on behalf of the NEC come from? And how does this affect the NUS’s student voice?

In answer to the former, this shift seems to be part of a growing movement of young people towards the left, something most obviously embodied in Jeremy Corbyn’s recent Labour leadership victory. This political shift was also played out in recent NEC elections, which has led to this strong opposition.

And in terms of what it means for student voice, opinions differ. Some see the NEC as working outside of its jurisdiction and creating friction against Dunn which is both unnecessary and unhelpful in getting the student voice out, promoting minority issues rather than working together to benefit others. Those on the left of the NEC however argue that student democracy should not be compromised just to make official’s jobs easier.

So where does this internal fighting leave the NUS? Well, a governance review is currently underway and a more prominent use of technology to promote the student voice within the NUS is an idea that is already being considered. But unfortunately it seems as though major reform is still a long way off.

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