THE BLOG

Sick of Campus Coddling? Then Smash the NUS

19/01/2016 11:02 GMT | Updated 19/01/2017 10:12 GMT

For most students, their NUS membership is like a kind of glorified Groupon. It gets them 10 per cent off at Topshop and a free McFlurry - but that's it.

Students today are completely detached from students' union politics. The numbers speak for themselves. In an SU election, 30% turnout is considered a staggering achievement - most bump around in the low-teens.

But this is not because students are apathetic - that they are more interested in Jagerbombs and Tinder than radical activism. It's because students' union politics is a joke.

While the Tories' plans to scrap maintenance grants have brought the NUS press office out in force this morning, day-to-day, students' union politics focuses on one thing: censorship.

Yesterday, spiked, the magazine I work for, launched the 2016 findings of the Free Speech University Rankings, our nationwide campus-censorship survey. According to our data, 90% of campuses censor speech - and the vast majority of it stems from students' unions and NUS-approved policy.

This isn't just about No Platforming fascists. Almost anything can get you in trouble with the campus thought-police these days - from 'offensive' fancy dress to 'inappropriate' hand gestures.

Many students come to university interested in understanding and changing the world. Once, student politics provided an outlet for that burgeoning, history-making impulse. But this kind of petty SU authoritarianism stifles that spirit.

Argument, forthright disagreement and trying to win people over are the essence of politics. But in the ban-happy world of the SU debate isn't just dodged, it's seen as dangerous.

The rise of Safe Spaces, the idea that students need to be protected from 'uncomfortable' ideas, shows where this kind of paternalism leads: not in changing the world, but sealing yourself off from it.

Unsurprisingly, being treated like vulnerable children, told what to say, think and wear, puts most first-years right off. The vast majority of students have just decided to leave the blue-haired pillocks to it. But this is a mistake.

Yes, SU nutcases exist in a small and cut-off world. They ban clapping, pass motions condemning pop stars and introduce meat-free Mondays without the vast majority of their members even noticing. But this is starting to change.

Campus authoritarianism is creeping into all areas of students' academic and social lives. From the war on offensive fancy dress to the institution of compulsory consent classes, SUs no longer trust students to fondle for themselves, let alone think for themselves.

That's why it's time students got a little angry. These barely-elected idiots are not only giving students everywhere a bad name, they're patronising, censoring and re-educating you for the pleasure. All on your dime.

So, the silent majority, chuck in your membership card. Disaffiliate. Smash the NUS. You have nothing to lose but your discounts.

Tom Slater is deputy editor at spiked and coordinator of the Free Speech University Rankings