The Guardian reports today on the impact on the NUS of the recent disciplinary measures taken at Liverpool and other universities:
Student leaders meet today to discuss disciplinary measures taken by university authorities. Moderates in the National Union of Students fear a chain reaction ending in more sympathy for ” victimised ” militants.
First they fear that reaction to this month’s string of suspensions, expulsions and penal sentences may split the union. Secondly they fear that disciplinary measures at Liverpool – one expulsion and nine suspensions – may succeed because of the weak local union.
Third, they would expect other university disciplinarians to be encouraged by this to follow suit with the result that there would be a swing of support towards the victims. The NUS president, Mr Jack Straw, says that even short-term victories will mean long-term trouble.
NUS leaders are now being compelled to protest against ” harsh ” sentences for action they did not originally support. The dilemma facing Mr Straw and his colleagues is how to respond to demands from local unions for national action Often this is impractical and, more seriously, there is the prospect of local unions breaking away from the national body – those on the Left for too little action, those on the Right if there is too much.
Mr Straw hopes that university vice-chancellors will isolate student extremists by increasing recognition of the NUS as a responsible body with tangible concessions to the students. This would show that moderation works, but NUS fears are mounting that some stonewalling by the authorities is supplementing their “student bashing.”
University chiefs deny Left-wing accusations that there has been a conspiracy over the sentences. But their undeniably tougher line has undeniably been well timed. This summer term has exams to distract all students and the South African cricket tour to absorb the militants’ energy.
The union in Liverpool – where the scare started – is considerered to be ramshackle and ineffectual. It is torn by political, personal and constitutional divisions, and it is ill-fitted to be a champion of student rights.
The predicted swing to the Left was evident at last week’s union meetings there. The union council voted to support demands it once rejected when made by the 300 students who occupied the university’s Senate House. The Left won every vote, including calls for a one-day strike on Friday, and a severance of all links with the university authorities.