It's time to ditch the NUS

By: Ben Ramanauskas


At this year’s NUS Annual Conference, the outgoing NUS President Megan Dunn, claimed that it was the ‘world’s largest democratic student gathering.’ Given that she was elected by a few hundred delegates, who were in turn elected by a tiny proportion of their elected student bodies, it is difficult to understand how she could make such a claim. The NUS Annual Conference is about as democratic and narrow minded as the National Congress of the Communist Party of China. At the Conference, a motion for a ‘one member, one vote’ system was defeated by the NUS politburo. The NUS does not care about democracy or ensuring that every student’s voice is heard, they are only interested in furthering the warped ideology of its leaders.

Not only is the NUS undemocratic, the Conference further demonstrated just how out of touch and irrelevant the NUS has become. The delegates this year called for the banning of the social media apps because some people were using them to say hurtful things. More disturbingly, however, were the calls from some delegates to scrap Holocaust Memorial Day as it is not inclusive.

To top it all off, the delegate this year elected as their President, Malia Bouattia. As a result, the NUS now has as its leader somebody who refused to condemn ISIS, but is more than happy yo brand the University of Birmingham as a ‘Zionist outpost’ due to its large number of jewish students.

The fact that the NUS is now led by somebody who has expressed anti-semitic views should come as no surprise. For the past few years, the NUS has been led by coterie of out of touch, illiberal who regard anyone who does not agree with them as a bigot. For example, in a bizarre move several months ago, the LGBT office of the National Union of Students, Fran Cowling, refused to attend a panel debate at Canterbury Christ Church University. The bewildering reasoning behind her decision was that Peter Tatchell was also going to be part of the debate- a man whom she believes is a racist and not an ally of the LGBT community.

So, what is that caused Fran Cowling to cast such aspersions upon Peter Tatchell’s character? Surely he must have renounced his life’s work, recanted his views, tattooed a swastika on his forehead, and been filmed burning the rainbow flag? Whatever it was, it must surely have been unsparingly vile and bigoted to have deserved such odium from the LGBT officer of the NUS? Actually, the reason why Miss Cowling and her NUS cronies launched such a defamatory attack on Peter Tatchell was because he signed a letter.

Tatchell, along with 130 others, signed a letter warning about “a worrying pattern of intimidation and silencing of individuals whose views are deemed ‘transphobic’”. This was enough for a representative of the NUS to brand Tatchell as a bigot. As a result of the incident, Tatchell and one of his cosignatories- Cambridge Classics Professor, Mary Beard- were subjects of a vitriolic twitter attack. Supporters of Miss Cowling- and others within the anti-free speech movement- called Professor Beard ‘an unrepentant bigot’ and Tatchell a ‘parasite’.

Miss Cowling has refused to debate with Tatchell as she disagrees with some of his views. One would have thought that it would not be necessary to point out to one of the leaders of an organisation as large and well funded as the NUS that a debate with somebody who agrees with you about absolutely everything is not really a debate, more like a smug, self-satisfied rant. However, I suspect that Miss Cowling does not care for reasoned, grown up discussion as she is part of a powerful and petulant clique with the NUS who crush free speech and brand anyone who does not agree with them as a bigot. They do not like, and they are unaccustomed to, debate. They have spent far too long in their echo chamber and are so disconnected from the real world that they genuinely believe that anybody outside of their inward-looking bubble is dangerous and must be silenced.

Fran Cowling’s refusal to share a platform with Peter Tatchell perfectly illustrates the view of some student union leaders that if you support free speech on campus and do not share the views that are currently in vogue with the NUS elite, then you must be a bigot and banned from campus. Peter Tatchell is just the latest victim of the McCarthy style witch hunt that is currently crushing free speech on campus. For example, and in another ironic twist, the feminist Germaine Greer was recently accused of being a misogynist and was banned from attending an event at Cardiff University by student union leaders.

Tatchell and Greer- in many ways the parents (or possibly grandparents)- of the identity politics revolution on which the NUS base most of its actions, now find themselves the victims of it. They stand accused by these new Jacobins of being counter-revolutionary. In a movement that insists on doctrinal purity, even the slightest whiff of disagreement or independent thought must be considered heresy and quickly stamped out. Despite their contributions to the movement, Tatchell and Greer are now accused of betraying it and of standing in the way of progress for simply questioning the actions of the student union leaders. One can just imagine the NUS officers justifying their actions by quoting Robespierre, “softness to traitors will destroy us all”.

Welcome to the Kafkaesque nightmare that is the NUS. The NUS and student union leaders are supposed to represent the views of all the students on their campus and in the entire country. However, they are increasingly run by apparatchiks determined to promote their own views and squander their students’ money in order to further their own agenda. For example, we have seen student unions cancel debates on abortion, and ban certain magazines and songs. They also decide to adopt certain stances on various issues such as abortion or the conflict between Israel and Palestine. These are contentious issues and so student unions should be recognising that their students have different views on such topics and so should not have their money spent on promoting a position with which they vehemently disagree. The most recent example of this was the attempt of the student union at Oxford to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes from Oriel College because some of the students found it to be offensive.  Student leaders squandered the money of the students who they claimed to represent in an ill-conceived attempt to rewrite history. The students who spoke out against the injudicious attempt to airbrush history by defacing an historic building were simply shouted down and accused of supporting colonialism. Furthermore, in a disturbingly Orwellian move, there have been suggestions by the Student Union at the LSE that the Free Speech Society should be banned.

Student union leaders claim to represent all students but they operate in an environment with all the cultic fervour and diversity of thought of a Nuremberg Rally. They have stifled and crushed free speech and, rather than engage in reasoned debate, they simply ban speakers with whom they disagree and brand them as bigots. These student union leaders use the money that they receive from students to promote  and enforce their own opinions. If anyone were to have the audacity  to question or challenge this new orthodoxy, then the leaders like Miss Cowling- whip their supporters into a frenzy of slurs and vitriol resembling Salem in 1692.

It’s time for students to leave the NUS and for them to establish a truly democratic organisation which actually represents the issues and concerns of its students instead of a body which only represents the in vogue views of a tiny left wing clique. The NUS is out of touch and irrelevant, it’s time to ditch it.
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