Last time round I was in a bloody music video campaigning to stay in the NUS, I won’t make that mistake again.

As a naive fresher back in 2013/4, I experienced the last referendum on the NUS first hand. I even campaigned to stay in, I believed the NUS could be reformed and did more good than harm for the student voice on the national scale. The arrogance of  first-year PPEist eh?

Christ, I even spent an afternoon jumping out of trees in Uni Parks with our OUSU overlord VP for Welfare & Equal Opps to make a music video to persuade students to stay in the NUS. It was a bastardisation of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”, though looking back I wish someone had stopped me. Thankfully that video has been purged from the internet…

A fair part of my journalistic “career” in Oxford has been built on NUS-bashing, it’s been an easy target and if Oxford leaves, I feel for anyone involved with Oxford “journalism” next year, they’ll have to find some proper news. Leaving would make the NUS so detached from most people at Oxford that even the most desperate news editor couldn’t justify taking the piss, whereas now membership gives the thinnest veneer of relevance to help justify mockery.

It’s in this irrelevance and mockery that an important reason why we need to leave can be found. The NUS is now a punchline, the butt of cheap jokes both in the student bubble and outside. In its current state, the NUS cannot be taken seriously by anyone, and concerted efforts of leave campaigners around the country are undermining any remaining authority.

Yet another NUS joke...

                                         Yet another NUS joke…

We need student organisation and a common front to represent us on issues that affect us. Rent, discrimination and quality of teaching spring to mind. What we do not need is an NUS that is a creche for future politicians, campaigning to ban Coca-Cola on campus or making self-important declarations on foreign policy (solidarity with Mexico, Irish water charges & I could go on) to burnish NUS officer’s credentials for a SWP Labour safe seat in 15 years time. The NUS represents itself, not students.

We need wholesale reform of the NUS and a refocussing on student, not geopolitical issues, and I believe it when the Oh Well Alright Then delegates we sent to the NUS say reform is impossible. Set up a new union, use leaving as a short term thing to force the change that currently isn’t possible, but unlike fresher me, I have realised the NUS as it stands is not reformable. When the NUS’s VP for welfare claims she is more interested in politics than student welfare there’s something rotten at the core.

Just this week we have seen a vile attack on the leader of the No Thanks campaign, Anne Cremin, with an anonymous Yes to NUS activist calling her thoughts on the NUS’s failings on mental health a “nasty trick“. This has served to push me even further to the No Thanks camp, if the Yes campaign are willing to talk over the lived experience of someone who campaigns tirelessly on mental health issues, because it suits their agenda. Instead of liberation for all, it is liberation on certain terms and your experience only matters when you agree. Can you really back a campaign willing to sink so low?

It’s clear that now earmarking has ended, OUSU could keep and reallocate the £19,000 spent on affiliation in other areas, just as they keep the £12,000 from withdrawing from the Safety Bus scheme (money that was also previously specified for one use) instead of seeing the University claw it back. With that money we could appoint a full-time OUSU Trans Officer, provide extra vital funding to OUSU campaigns or send 100 students to MIND to get specialist training on mental health – people and systems in Oxford rather than in NUS HQ.

Oh and discounts, if that’s your reason to vote to stay in, give up reading here. I’m not going to persuade anyone so dogmatically committed to a broken institution. UNIDAYS is a thing giving most of the same discounts as NUS Extra, including Spotify and flashing your Bod card in the majority of shops does the trick to get that sweet 10% off. Fair’s fair, the 10% off in the Co-Op is pretty decent but lets be honest, who goes to the Co-Op? Tesco is more than 10% cheaper anyway and it sells £3 bottles of wine.

Me in Tesco before finals hit...

 Me in Tesco before finals hit…

To you guys claiming the NUS helps save money on booze through the Co-Op, to appeal to the VERSA staffer who likes a drink – remember the NUS wants to RAISE alcohol prices – I can’t imagine many students who support that.

Seriously, a common front for students is necessary – but the NUS cannot be taken seriously as a representative body anymore. Student Tories exist in large numbers, but they mock them. Students are seeing a cost of living crisis, they want to raise booze prices. Jewish students raise concerns about the views of the new President, the response is inadequate at best.

Whether you want to send a message that the NUS needs to undergo fundamental reform, or move to a new institution that campaigns purely on liberation, cost of living and other student-related issues, vote to leave. I’ve been here before, I voted to stay in 2014 and that was a mistake. This NUS does not represent me, and I doubt it represents most of you either.

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