As you may know, NUS National Conference is happening right now, and the President of our union has just been elected (congratulations Mr Liam Burns). The next few years are going to be a difficult time to be a student, and a difficult time to be NUS President – fighting cuts to Higher education, restoring trust in an organisation many students distrust and engaging the many, many students who don’t care about their own union. But unless you are one of the handful of delegates who have been attending the NUS national conference, you had no say in the matter.
Fun fact – out of over 7 million students, 444 voted for the outgoing President of the NUS, Aaron Porter. This immediately strikes us as a bit odd, to say the least. An organisation that elects its leaders based on the votes of less than 1% of its members is not one that can call itself truly democratic.
The problem isn’t just the number of people voting in elections, but who is voting and how they got that right. Delegates are chosen by student unions by election (in Edinburgh’s case this includes three of the current sabbs). But despite less than a quarter of NUS members being in higher education, the vast majority of delegates are. Despite the vast majority of members being mature students, most delegates are not. But how can we ensure a better reflection of how the union is built up? We propose the radical idea of giving everyone a vote.
The other problem is with accountability. We didn’t/couldn’t vote for Aaron Porter, and are not his biggest fans (though we did give him a leg up when times where hard), and we are not the only ones who have a less than positive opinion on him. However when we don’t have a voice within the union, how can we show this? This is why you end up with Porter being booed and jeered and chased at demonstrations, there is no constructive way to show any displeasure we may have.
There is absolutely no open channel for ordinary students to air their opinions. The “hack bubble” exists in all levels of student politics, but at a national level the bubble is a reinforced titanium security dome.
The head of the our national union is disconnected from it’s body. Complain if you want, but no one’s listening.