A movement has started calling for the University of Warwick to leave the National Union of Students (NUS), following what some believe to be a controversial annual conference.
A Facebook page has been created called “Warwick says NO to NUS“, defining itself as the campaign for Warwick Students’ Union (SU) to disaffiliate from the national union.
The people behind the page plan to propose a motion in which the entire student body can vote on whether or not Warwick SU leaves NUS.
This follows the NUS National Conference, which was held between 19-21 of April. A total of 7 Warwick delegates attended the Conference, including SU President Isaac Leigh and Sabbatical Officers George Creasy and Charlie Hindhaugh.
At the conference, Malia Bouattia was elected NUS President – sparking issues and complaints from 57 Jewish Societies at UK universities, who signed an open letter condemning comments she has made in the past which have been viewed as anti-Semitic, and calling for her to answer some questions on said comments. Warwick’s Jewish Israeli Society were part of this letter.
This anti-semitism allegation has been fuelling anti-NUS sentiments across the country.
The NUS does an extremely poor job at engaging with its members, and the organisation is too dominated by factionalist infighting by a small number of people. It has failed to deal with anti-Semitism, and its anti-free speech stance has got it into all sorts of holes.
Sam Fry, Warwick says NO to NUS
Several universities have already stated their intentions to call motions on whether or not to dissociate from NUS, including the University of Oxford and the University of York.
It is also being cited as a factor in Warwick’s own campaign to leave.
Politics and International Studies PhD student Sam Fry, who is currently leading the calls for Warwick to leave, explained: “I am campaigning for Warwick to disaffiliate from the NUS because I don’t think the NUS represents ordinary students.
“The NUS does an extremely poor job at engaging with its members, and the organisation is too dominated by factionalist infighting by a small number of people. It has failed to deal with anti-Semitism, and its anti-free speech stance has got it into all sorts of holes.”
He added: “Warwick deserves better, and I believe that it is time to make a stand.”
Sam Carter, a third-year Engineering student who is also involved in the campaign, further stated: “The NUS claim that the student movement is 7 million strong, if that is the case then 372 votes for President is an unacceptably low threshold.”
The campaign is currently running a petition to collect the 500 signatures they need to send the proposed motion to a vote.
At a critical time in higher education, with a potentially transformative government White Paper coming soon, it is incredibly important that we do not walk away from the only tangible opportunity of having a collective voice alongside other students’ unions.
Isaac Leigh, SU President
Despite anti-Semitism being stated as one reason behind the argument to leave NUS, Warwick’s Jewish Israeli Society are not involved with the campaign and do not hold an official stance on the topic.
Similarly, Warwick Labour have stated their intention to not take an official stance, and to allow their members and exec to feel “free to weigh-in on either side of the debate”.
Warwick Conservative Association have, in contrast, openly called for the need for a vote on the issue. They have also reiterated, however, that they do not have an official stance in favour of either side of the debate as of yet.
SU President Isaac Leigh has released a statement on behalf of the whole Sabbatical Officer team, warning against calls to leave. He stated: “At a critical time in higher education, with a potentially transformative government White Paper coming soon, it is incredibly important that we do not walk away from the only tangible opportunity of having a collective voice alongside other students’ unions.
“NUS has many flaws, which I saw first-hand as a delegate at National Conference last week; however we would be far weaker and more isolated on the outside of it all.
“It would be like the Sabbs saying that they didn’t like the University senior management team, so they should give up their representation on University Council, Senate and all the other committees we are on. We would rightly be criticised for passing up our seat at the table.”
He finished: “There is clear frustration with NUS so let’s use this to change it, rather than walk away from it. Frustration can be a powerful catalyst for change.”
UPDATE: Article added to at 18:34 to reflect the opinions of Warwick’s Labour and Conservative groups.