After experiencing "deep dissatisfaction with the running of the National Conference," YUSU Officers have written two letters addressing their concerns with the current state of the NUS.
In the first letter addressed to NUS Officers, YUSU noted the falsity in the NUS's claims that York showed "overwhelming" support to remain in the NUS. However, YUSU reported this was not the case due to the “low voter turnout.” Whilst a minimum of 5 percent of student members were required to vote - in line with the Education Act, only 375 votes were cast. Therefore the referendum was classified as invalid, highlighting students' disconnection from the NUS and their lack of support in the campaign.
Within this letter, YUSU Officers also stated their surprise at the fact “ a by-election for NUS President was not held at Conference, that delegates were not presented with the opportunity to scrutinise the NUS’ budget, and that a proper Officer accountability session was not held.” Further disappointment stemmed from the behaviour of certain NUS Officers, whereby an inappropriate comment was directed towards the NUS delegates.
The letter concluded, "The NUS needs to work harder to understand and reflect the ambitions and needs of students on campuses up and down the country." Additionally, YUSU Officers expressed a lack of confidence in the NUS, and without change, “another referendum on NUS UK affiliation” will be called for.
The second letter was composed by NUS delegates Izzy Andrews who also holds the role of Women and Non-Binary Office, and Ellen Rintoul, who is York's RAG (Raising and Giving) Officer. The letter aimed to provide feedback for the NUS conference, which took place in November 2022, in an effort to improve the future of NUS Liberation Conferences.
In the aforementioned letter, delegates Ellen and Izzy acknowledged their experience at the conference, stating, "We felt as though the policy proposals, though important, were not relevant to us, and would have benefitted from having the expertise of our Trans, Disabled, and International student representatives."
Furthermore, the delegates expressed their inability to feel seen and represented at the conference. "To attend this conference feeling completely invisible and unable to find a space where my identity fit was unbelievably disheartening."
Ellen and Izzy concluded the letter by requesting an improved understanding and "promotion" of equality at all future NUS liberation conferences.
In a recent Instagram post, YUSU also outlined their proposals to the NUS Officers.
One proposal was a "clear (currently absent) direction of travel for the NUS that focuses on strong NUS-led campaigning."
Additionally, YUSU requested that the NUS stop using "outdated language to refer to underrepresented groups" immediately. This includes "suspending the use of the word ‘Black’ to refer to Asian and Minority Ethnic delegates."
Other requests regarded a space for "Non-Binary student representation," an end to the confrontational attitude between YUSU and the NUS, and for "all democratic voting to be entirely accessible for all delegates."
YUSU have expressed their determination to ensure adaptations are made to the NUS, stating, "Clearly, something has to change for our national union to be fixed."
An NUS spokesperson said that “NUS is the national voice for students, representing over 400 students’ unions and 7 million students across the UK. We are currently running a high-profile campaign on the cost of living, a priority shared across our membership who we are proud to campaign alongside in students’ national interests. So far, we have won £15 million from the government in student cost of living support. This was only possible due to the thousands of students who readily influence our campaigns, research, policy and democracy work each year to build a loud and powerful national voice.
“NUS conferences are always evolving, and we welcome all feedback from delegates to help us improve. We are grateful to have recently met with YUSU to respond to the concerns raised and are committed to ensuring our members have an excellent delegate experience.”