By Craig Bateman
On 7th June, the Durham student community will have a rare opportunity to stand up for those who have felt alienated by the NUS’ recent chain of episodes, which have cast doubt on its claim to represent all students, and attached itself with negative political connotations.
Such episodes include the widely-condemned move to encourage the abolition of gay men’s representatives on University-wide LGBT+ societies, the politically insensitive move to drop automatic representation of the Jewish community on the NUS’ national Anti-Racism, Anti-Fascism campaign, as well as the unrealistic move to campaign for the abolition of prisons.
If these episodes happened in isolation of each other, it may eventually become forgiveable, with blame allocated on the political inexperience of its leaders, or misguided strategists.
That these controversial events have happened at a similar time, and have a shared consequence of leading to the marginalisation of minority groups within decision-making, however, suggests something more institutionalised; something more endemic, and something which must be immediately addressed.
Overwhelming support in favour of the NUS will allow the NUS to slip into further complacency, the results of which could be potentially disastrous, not only those who end up being increasingly disenfranchised from the NUS’ activities, but for the legitimacy of its representative structures as a whole -activities and structures which governmental agencies have every right to call into question before listening to what the NUS has to say.
The ‘A Better Durham’ campaign is primarily aimed towards standing up for, and magnifying the views of, those who have been let down, disappointed, and disenfranchised, by the NUS’ recent moves in policy direction.
We can create a better experience for all by amplifying the voices of the excluded minority, we are also serving the majority; Durham best succeeds when we are all working together.
In my opinion, the choice at this referendum could not be more clear. Either we exert pressure on the NUS to realise it’s mistakes, and kick-start a radical dialogue on its future, or we carry on as we are – continuing down the path towards alienation, marginalisation, and exclusion. I know which side of the debate I am on.
Illustration: Olivia Howcroft