November 2018 saw the National Union of Students announce a 3 million pound deficit. I say announced, but the only way the public and importantly, students, found out about this was through a leaked letter between the NUS president Shakira Martin and chief executive Peter Robertson. It was concerning when the NUS was struggling to sell its NUS extra discount card, but the scale of financial trouble had never been made public until now.
A 3 million pound deficit raises both eyebrows and questions. Where has all this money gone? What has it been spent on? How long has the NUS been keeping this under wraps? The NUS's mission statement is to represent students and the leadership is always keen to reiterate this. The student body that claims to be representative of student voice, however, has failed to inform them of the finances of the organisation. So would this leak spur the NUS on and force the organisation to present a strategy and plan to rectify this situation? No such luck I am afraid. Similar to the lecture strikes, the NUS happily advertise it's representational and democratic credentials but remains completely silent when an issue arises.
So far, we know the NUS has had 'strategic' meetingson the matter, but students do not know what they exactly involved. We don't know because the NUS do not publicsh the meetings or minutes. They have not put any effort at all into informing students what the discussions are and the strategy in conversation. It was the same situation for the lecture strikes last year, and despite my continuous attempts to contact the leadership, I was largely ignored.
From what we hear, a strategy has been planned and one assumes this will be voted on in conference without the resolution being formally publicised through the website. What students need right now is transparency. We as Kent students and as members of Kent Union fork out £50,000 a year on the NUS. We deserve to know where money is being spent and how this bankruptcy appeared out of nowhere. If the NUS won't tell us, Student Unions need to put their money where their mouths are and demand answers. And importantly publicising the NUS's justifications to student populations. Accountability is key here and it is that the NUS is lacking.
This freshers fair, the NUS in its capacity as Totum had a stall in Eliot college. So I had approached them and asked about the deficit situation. Of course I was not expecting a definite response because I was speaking to the representatives who were to sell their Totum product on behalf of the NUS. They didn't know about the deficit nor could they tell me how much NUS pays towards 'Totum' services. But what they could say, in their marketing speech, is that the benefits of buying Totum discount card is that this money would be reinvested into the student unions. But this brings students to a further question, what's the point of giving money to an organisation that doesn’t tell you where this money is going?