The NUS is not your mate

Luke Terry

Topics Free Speech

Another year and another freshers’ week of boozing, loud music and vomiting has come to an end. Tired new students across the UK will now be settling in and getting ready for an intense academic year of slightly less frequent blasts of boozing, loud music and vomiting.

Many students will no doubt now be signing up to any and every student society within reach in an effort to feel productive. They will be throwing themselves at the Assassin’s Guild, the Extreme Croquet Society and, of course, going to pick up their membership card for the National Union of Students (NUS). But while there’s nothing wrong with pretending to assassinate your mates or playing croquet on a mountainside, the NUS is a different matter.

For years, the NUS has claimed to represent us. Yet so many of the actions it takes go against the very ethos of student life.

The NUS enforces censorship

The NUS has a strict No Platform policy, banning a growing list of people and organisations it deems too offensive or controversial for students to hear. The NUS does not want students to be faced with controversial opinions, and it will not allow students to form their own defence against opposing views. No Platform also forbids people with the views it deems unacceptable to run for NUS office. Apparently, the NUS doesn’t even trust its students to vote against a racist in an election campaign.

The NUS also promotes a Safe Space policy. This aims to establish students’ unions as places that ‘safely’ enable self-expression. However, if your self-expression doesn’t fit the ideology of the NUS, the policy will be used as an excuse to ban you. It’s a Safe Space for people who agree with the establishment. You know, like North Korea.

The NUS is hypocritical

It would be nice if the NUS didn’t condemn anyone. It would be great if it challenged students by letting us come into contact with all ideas and allowing us to form our own opinions. But, if it is so set on being censorious, it could at least be consistent; while the NUS is happy to condemn Israel or UKIP as dangerous, and ban everyone from Dapper Laughs to Julie Bindel, the Islamic State gets a pass. A motion proposed to condemn the terrorist group was raised at a recent NUS conference, but it failed to be voted in. It seems the lunatics of IS are too busy lopping off people’s heads to make comments about Romanians or record a lousy pop song.

The NUS takes a creepy interest in your sex life

In recent years, the NUS has been promoting consent workshops to universities across the country. And some NUS-affiliated SUs have made them mandatory for all sports teams and first years.

The NUS’s guide for how to spread the message of consent includes helpful ideas like ‘perform a piece about consent’ and ‘why not make a t-shirt?’. Because, you know, many a rapist has been on the verge of a sexual assault, only to read a damning slogan on a polo neck and immediately change his ways.

Having the NUS poke around your bedroom antics may be some people’s idea of fun, but forcing people to attend such workshops is creepy and counter-productive.

The NUS wants to put you in a box

You might have thought one of the main benefits of university was meeting new people and discovering ideas and cultures you had no idea existed. Yet the NUS is obsessed with segregating people into biological boxes. There is an officer designed to represent almost every group imaginable – from women to LGBT to BME – creating more divisions among people who should be mixing together.

This is why you get people like Bahar Mustafa, the diversity officer who liked to keep white people out of anti-racism events. It also allows for a situation in which the NUS passes a motion condemning white gay men for ‘appropriating the culture’ of black women. According to the NUS, we must all be kept separate.

The booze isn’t even cheap

By this point, you may have given up on taking the NUS seriously as a vaguely political organisation or a functioning union. Join the club. At least we can go get pissed together on the cut-price drinks the NUS has fought to provide, right?

Wrong. The NUS has been in favour of minimum pricing on alcohol since 2009. It’s even teamed up with the Home Office to clamp down on binge drinking altogether.

University should be about having new and exciting experiences – whether it’s challenging your deepest held beliefs or waking up, in the middle of a rugby pitch, spooning a traffic cone.

You would think the NUS would promote this ideal. Yet, at every step of the way, it shows intellectual cowardice, hypocrisy and condescension.

So, this year, lose the NUS card – try the Extreme Croquet Society instead.

Luke Terry is a writer and student.

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Topics Free Speech


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