Student politics has long been a distant entity to most of us here on campus. Many may cite the NUS discount card or the copious amounts of cardboard on campus now that it is election week, but not much else. The recent actions of the Student Council (which, understandably, most of you will never have heard of) is emblematic of this sclerosis.
A week ago, members of the Student Council received an email from the Democratic Voice Coordinator asking them to give permission for NUS delegates to discuss three policy submissions and an amendment. These submissions included a policy to oppose the renewal of the Trident Nuclear deterrent, abolish the monarchy and for Indonesia to relinquish control of ‘West Papua.’
National campaigning has been a hallmark of the NUS over the past few decades and although I personally disagree with their emphasis on free education, there is clearly a large proportion of students who don’t. The NUS rightfully does campaign on this issue as it clearly affects students whether or not we have to take out loans to cover our tuition fees.
Student politics has long been a distant entity to most of us here on campus.
However, these motion submissions are not cut from the same cloth and have absolutely nothing to do with the interests or welfare of students. How does abolishing the monarchy and not renewing Trident have anything to do with students’ concerns? I would love for an SU officer to articulate how having a queen or a nuclear deterrent will help me deal with Stagecoach busses, exam stress or money issues.
The ‘West Papua’ issue exemplifies this. I agree with the submission that if you look at the facts Indonesian control of the area is brutal and shows signs of intense political oppression. However, I really don’t think that this is high on students’ concerns. Just mentioning the phrase ‘West Papua’ to my flatmates was meant with blank faces, before one of them erroneously states, ‘that’s basically Papua New Guinea, right?’
How does abolishing the monarchy and not renewing Trident have anything to do with students’ concerns?
If you are genuinely concerned about West Papua, good. Take action by lobbying the government or a pressure group, someone who can actually influence the situation. I can’t image leaders at a G20 summit discussing the situation and saying, ‘I wonder what the UK NUS thinks…’
Now, people may say that I am opposed to these policies because I am not of a left-wing persuasion. True, I am opposed to the content of these motions. However, if motions calling for the reduction of trade union power and condemnation of Cuba were brought up, I would still oppose them.
I can’t image leaders at a G20 summit discussing the situation and saying, ‘I wonder what the UK NUS thinks…’
Even though I largely agree with both policies, motions should not be judged on their political validity, but on their relevance to students’ interests. The NUS conference is already jam packed as it is. Why can’t they spend more time discussing things that affect us rather than the finer points of global politics?
The way in which the vote was conducted speaks volumes as well. Rather than open the submissions up to a student vote they were quietly agreed to by the Student Council, using By-Law 5.5.1. When asked for a comment on the proceedings, outgoing President Luke Pilot noted that ‘the correct democratic procedure was followed,’ and that ‘national conference motions do not become policy of Warwick Students’ union.’
Why can’t they spend more time discussing things that affect us rather than the finer points of global politics?
While he is correct in that all of the proceedings were conducted correctly, the system clearly isn’t admirable. I’m sure if most students knew that this is what our NUS delegates were discussing they would be shocked and angry.
Submissions like these are what turn the majority of students off from student politics. It spoke volumes that in the 2016 sabbatical officer elections turnout at just over 25% was a cause for celebration and not soul-searching. The NUS needs to stop being a body for international politics, and put that energy into students. Maybe then they will start to make students more engaged.