NUS

Why no one cares about student politics

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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.

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Comments (5)

  • We are an international university and this piece is frankly disgraceful. It should be encouraging that students are taking a wider interest in political issues both nationally and internationally. Also the NUS is a large national organisation with some political clout. That means we can use it to make positive change in the world and that’s a good thing.

    This article sounds a lot like the weak Tory arguments against political unions which they only make because they have been consistently losing the aforementioned political arguments. Why are you trying to limit the political expression of students? If you don’t care about these issues then that’s fine, it doesn’t matter if SUs do stuff about it so why complain? SUs and the NUS do lots of practical stuff too. This is frankly a weak argument and however much you try to mask it, it smacks of bitterness about the right/liberals losing these political debates.

    May I suggest that if you’re losing these arguments, the issue isn’t having these debates, the issue is you’re wrong.

  • people do care they just dont care about u

    ‘Why does nobody care about student politics! Apart from all my friends in tory exec, the political society of which i am an active member’

  • I whole heardtedly disagree with you and agree with this article. I’ve lost interest in student politics because rather than tackling micro issues that affect us and tackling them well, it tries to take on global macro politics and does so badly.

  • Hi Steven, as the author of this piece, I will try and respond to your comment. On your point of student engagement in big global political issues, I am actually on your side in a way! I too wish that students would become more engaged with global political issues. However, Warwick SU and the NUS are not the bodies to do this.

    These are bodies which were created to represent student and not global issues. As I allude to in my piece, if students are concerned about issues such as West Papua, great! There are a host of political organisations such as Amnesty International that they can join. A union set up to debate and lobby for student issues should not be using our issues to address issues which clearly do not affect us.

    More importantly, it does ‘matter’ if SUs campaign on issues like this as firstly it wastes precious resources and secondly it further alienates students away from Warwick SU and the NUS.

    Lastly, I would certainly not say that us Tories are losing political debates! If you hadn’t notices, were in power right now and I don’t think the Corbynistas will be challenging us anytime soon!

  • To the comment about my political affiliations – yes I am a Tory, and proudly so as well! I am also a member of the Conservative association on campus and will be part of the next exec. But this, if anything, backs up my point. If you are a political individual like myself… don’t bring your politics into the SU. I would never dream of bringing in motions to condemn nations such as North Korea into the SU as it has no relevance to students’ issues. I would, however, use the conservative association as a platform for this, as they don’t have to focus solely on students!

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