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Jamie talks about community

Let’s stop kidding ourselves about an NSS boycott

As someone who acts as your Community Officer on the Exec, let me tell you: I don’t even know where I can start with the problems that come with boycotting the National Student Survey (NSS).

Now, this is the first time I’ve ever actually spoke out against a forum idea all year. That’s because the arguments that are being put out there about boycotting the NSS are misguided at best and flat-out destructive to our Student Union at worst. I really want everybody to vote against boycotting the NSS.

In opposing a boycott of the NSS, we’re joining unions across the country – from Leicester, to Middlesex, and Staffordshire to Leeds College of Music in our own back yard. We join them in saying that a boycott won’t stop a fee increase. It would actively destroy the ability of students to make changes to their course and on this campus.

Boycotting the NSS would mean a lot of work for little pay off and, if anything, threatens to drive Student Unions over a cliff. It was reported last month that response rates reached an all-time high where campuses and unions were actively pushing their students not to fill in the survey. In fact, we’ve got more out of our Vice Chancellor on this than any of the unions which are promoting the boycott. We’ve frozen fees for every single undergrad. Melz and Jack have pushed the VC to put pen-to-paper and condemn the government for the changes they’re making. He’s even gone to parliament to tell MPs this to their faces. It’s just not the case that TEF and the HE bill won’t happen if a few hundred students wet out of filling out a form.

This is a Tory government we’re talking about after all. I’ve spent the last 7 years fighting this Tory government, and I’ve seen time and time again that they just don’t listen. They didn’t listen when we kicked off when they took away our EMA and they certainly didn’t listen when we kicked off when they trebled our fees to 9k. This government will just find another way to put up fees again, while all us here at LUU and the University are left high and dry if we boycott. We’ve been here before. Believe me.

Speaking like this might make it a little bit uncomfortable for me on the floor of the NUS conference, but do you know what? I don’t care. NUS are just wrong. I’m speaking up for what’s best for LUU and students here in Leeds, not what’s best for a narrow clique of out of touch politicos at NUS.

LUU is currently at capacity, we’ve got staff overworked and services being stretched. We’ve just had a Leadership Race where students on this campus voted for candidates pledging to double the block grant we receive from the University of Leeds.

This is up for negotiation over the next few months and guess what the chances would be of us getting more money if we boycotted the NSS? More money to represent students; for more socials; for your societies; for big events like Black History Month and the Leeds Ball? The chances of all this would be ZERO.

I’m coming to the end of my time here at LUU and I’ve loved it. I’ve seen the changes this union and its officers have been able to make for students. 24-hour libraries in exam periods; lecture capture; voter registration in enrolment; gender neutral toilets on campus; £500,000 to make sport affordable for all; the beginning of a path to a diversified curriculum; an end to laundry charges in halls; a real-terms reduction in rent; a freeze in fees; a living wage for University staff; women’s-only gym sessions, to name just a few.

And you know what? We didn’t achieve this by marching on the VC’s office, being left outside shouting and screaming, bitching and boycotting. We achieved all this by marching into the VC’s office, taking up our seat at the table and fighting for real change for students.

Please: vote against an NSS boycott. Don’t jeopardise the chance for students to make changes on this campus.

Jamie delivered this as a speech to the Better University forum on 9th March 2017 where the idea proposal: “Should LUU boycott the NSS?” was rejected unanimously.

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