On May 9th 2016, Lincoln Students’ Union became the first Students’ Union to disaffiliate from the National Union of Students, sparking referendums up and down the country from Newcastle to Exeter, and Cambridge to Hull. Inevitably, the members of Loughborough Students’ Union would eventually be asked the same question: to leave, or to remain.
May 27th saw the announcement of the NUS Referendum results, with 54.35% of votes to leave the NUS, and 41.30% to remain. A voting turnout of 2162 that could perhaps be described as disappointing, given the status of LSU as one of the largest commercial Students’ Unions in the United Kingdom. This led to the decision falling with the Board of Trustees, due to the voting quorum not being met. Jess Excell, President of LSU, stated that the decision made by the Board of Trustees would be “in line with the best interests of the Union and its students”, and LSU has a reputation for staying true to such a statement.
In defining a ‘Union’ it is considered to be: “The action of joining together or the fact of being joined together, especially in a political context”. The last two words are striking to me as perhaps what this referendum, and in wider terms the NUS has become, far too political.
Whilst it is undeniably impossible to define a typical student, there is a common denominator between us all who have opted to pursue higher educational qualifications. A financial burden that in many walks of life would be considered absurd. North of £42,000 worth of invisible debt. This is money you’ve never had, you perhaps will never even pay it back, though in the face of financial vulnerability, we as students are a socio-economic bracket that must stand together, the phrase “safety in numbers” is far too broad in its application to such a referendum, but the premise of such a phrase arguably rings true.
The NUS is not perfect, I would strongly argue far from it, but in the face of issue and problem why are we considering running away? This is the referendum for the Students’ Union with one of the largest team of paid sabbatical officers within this nation. A Students’ Union with millions of pounds in commercial revenue and an institution with financial influence greater than many of our own. If anyone is going to stand up to actively contribute to this much-needed reform, why not us?
There is indeed a more than valid argument as to why we should leave the NUS. Many students have become disillusioned with the institution that is said to represent them, and the turnout in the Loughborough referendum suffices as evidence to suggest this. The 13.05% range of voting turnout in favour of the leave campaign will of course play a part in the decision of the Trustees, though the fact there was no landslide in favour or leaving or remaining leaves this very much in the balance.
Tonight, the Board of Trustees will meet to decide the future of Loughborough Students’ Union and it’s affiliation with the NUS. The decision no longer lies directly with the students, and this evening a considerable decision will be made on behalf of them. I trust the Board to make the decision they feel leaves the Loughborough community and its Students’ Union in the best possible situation, with a view to both the short and long term.
There will be financial implications, campaign teams in uproar, and as of tonight, the future of Loughborough Students’ Union will be set on a new trajectory with regard to the NUS in disaffiliating, or we stand together and begin to contribute purposeful change to a National Union of Students in need of a series of reforms, but reform that is not beyond our control.
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