NUS reforms slated by CUSU officers

Jennifer Shaw 22 November 2007

Three CUSU Executive members have released a statement expressing their concern regarding the recent proposal for radical reform of the National Union of Students (NUS).

Their statement comes as a reaction to CUSU’s decision to back the NUS, providing one of the 25 student bodies required to call an Extraordinary Conference, which would allow proposed constitutional changes to be fast-tracked.

The changes, if ratified, would include a drastic restructuring of policy-making procedures as well as the introduction of a board of trustees to include both students and non-member legal and financial experts.

Junior Juma-Penge, Black Students Officer, Carol Johnston, newly instated LBGT President and Richard Braude, Higher Education Funding Officer released a statement to The Cambridge Student yesterday saying: “We oppose the marginalisation of liberation campaign officers in the proposed NUS constitution.”

The statement claimed that the proposal would allow the creation of a board with veto powers, which “defeats the purpose of having autonomous campaigns”.

The statement also expressed the officers’ apprehension that the proposed board would give non-members rights of constitutional power over members, declaring that the NUS “must be a place where we as students can affect change in our society, on whatever scale”.

But NUS President Gemma Tumelty insisted: “Students are far from being ‘marginalised’ – liberation campaigns are at the heart of the proposed reforms”.

She also asserted that the NUS would only use its power of veto in “extreme circumstances,” adding: “Even then the final decision will be taken by a majority of democratically elected officers and students.”

The statement comes at a time when fresh accusations are surfacing regarding an current ‘administrative crisis’ at the NUS.

The student publication at York University, York Vision, has made allegations of “severe financial mismanagement” within the organisation, claiming that the NUS had lost over £1.1 million of student money last year, with an estimated loss this year of £675,000.

York Vision suggested that such severe financial losses were due to the overstatement of predicted income from the new NUS ‘extra’ cards, as well as wasted money on “expenses and bureaucracy” with an estimated cost of £300,000 for last year’s Annual Conference alone, held in Blackpool.

In response, the NUS maintained that the story was “inaccurate” and that the state of NUS finances were now “drastically improved.”

In a statement, Dave Lewis, NUS National Treasurer predicted that by the end of the year “we will have reduced our deficit to £300 000” and that since the transfer of NUS assets to Endsleigh Insurance in Zurich “our finances have gone from strength to strength.”

Lewis also wished to stress the financial benefits of NUS Extra, stating that the cards had resulted in over £1 million of new income for student unions in 2006.

He also reinforced NUS commitment “to drive down costs and give students’ unions value for money” which he said had been proved by recent cuts in affiliation fees.

Jennifer Shaw