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#YesToNUS Why Membership Matters: The Liberation Case

Friday 13-05-2016 - 15:05

This blog is all about the liberation case for affiliating to NUS and the great things these campaigns do on a national level and on the ground.

NUS prides itself on many things – from supporting its member unions to changing public debate on key policy issues, from campaigns that represent a diverse population of people to being a vibrant space for students to learn and grow.  Nowhere are these things more evident than in our Liberation Campaigns. This blog comes to you from all five of the current Liberation Officers at NUS, because if there’s one thing we agree on, it’s that membership matters.

NUS has always been at the forefront of how Liberation politics should work and our example is followed all over the world.  The value we place on autonomy and self-definition is the strongest you’ll find anywhere – where people who have lived experiences of oppression decide for themselves what needs to happen and how they’ll make it happen.

These underlining principles are what makes our Liberation Campaigns the exciting places that they are.  So many people recognise their identity for the first time because of the proud and unapologetic way in which we talk about ourselves.  And many people find that Liberation Campaigns are the first places they are engaged with society and are empowered to get active.

We should never take that for granted.  And nor should people who don’t define into a Liberation Campaign.  Membership of NUS is all about the collective voice and the solidarity of students across nations, sections, campuses and identities.  We are all in education because we want to improve ourselves and our communities, and that shared goal runs right through all our work.

If you’re thinking nationally, then it’s clear our Liberation Campaigns have an impact.  Whether its Women students changing the narrative on sexual harassment and lad culture so that it’s now seen as epidemic that needs government attention, or Black students consistently pointing out that the lack of Black academics is a symptom of institutional racism that does a discredit to us all.  And maybe we don’t always get the result that we wanted – like when the Government went ahead with cuts to Disabled Students Allowance after months of campaigning from Disabled students – but that doesn’t mean that our only national platform is worthless.

Locally too, our Liberation Campaigns make a difference all over the country.  This year’s Education Charter from the LGBT+ Campaign was the first time that universities and colleges could measure how ‘inclusive’ of LGBT+ students they really are and start working towards a more liberated campus. The campaign also hosted the first ever training day to help estranged students while changed guidelines now mean estranged students can access the loan system more easily. And we’ve already nearly run out of the Disabled Students’ Campaign’s mental health and suicide prevention handbook because we know how important it is to share the knowledge, skills and best practice from across our movement.

And these are just a few examples.  We could talk about the success of I Heart Consent workshops nationwide, or the Students Not Suspects campaign that brought together students, academics and trade unions to resist the damaging Prevent agenda.  We could talk about all the Anti-Racism and Anti-Fascism work that we do together, or how incredible it that NUS will soon be the only organisation in the country that offers true representation for Trans* students.

And all of this work, all of it, is based on the time, passion and energy of students: Students who care so deeply about an issue that they will give their evenings to hosts events or paint a banner for a march.  Students who were trained up to be effective activist at events run by Liberation Campaigns.  Students who told us what their lives were like and what they needed to make a difference.

The point is that Liberation Campaigns effect of all us and work best when we work together and are strong.  There is nothing to be gained from walking away from the opportunity to be part of this kind of ground-breaking work.

All of us here at NUS want to see a united student movement.  We hope that we can unite around the work and aims of the Liberation Campaigns – to rid education of discrimination, inequality and oppression.

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