Brasenose votes to disaffiliate from major student bodies

Brasenose College has voted to separate itself from the Oxford Student Union (SU), as well as rejecting affiliation with the National Union of Students (NUS).

The move comes following the JCR’s annual assessment of its affiliation, as clause (9)(b) of the Brasenose JCR constitution requires that “affiliations must be approved every year at the JCR meeting in 5th week of Trinity term”.

Procedure under clause (9)(c) means change in the affiliations only depends on “a simple majority of votes cast”. The Brasenose JCR Secretary has told The Oxford Student that “[t]he decision to disaffiliate was made democratically, by the entire JCR community”.

He also added that their JCR is “not currently directly affiliated to the NUS, as a result of the actions of previous JCR committees”, so disaffiliation was “more a statement of intent indicating our displeasure with their conduct in response to the allegations of structural antisemitism”.

The NUS was created to make student unions more equal by listening to students’ voices and lobbying for change. Disaffiliating was, however, raised as a university-wide issue in a referendum earlier this year.

That vote was prompted by a damning report into antisemitism within the NUS, which found that Jewish students were “subjected to harassment”. Though Oxford’s student body voted to remain affiliated, Brasenose has sent the message of rejecting the NUS.

Peter Chen, the Brasenose JCR Arts Rep, commented to The Oxford Student: “I am happy to see the Brasenose JCR taking decisive action on this important issue. As I have stated before: hate, in any form, must not be tolerated here or anywhere else”.

One of the NUS’s key demands is “to make education free and lifelong”. However, in October 2014, Brasenose JCR also voted against a motion that they should “support the national demonstration for free education”.

This demonstration was the NUS’s “Free Education: No fees. No cuts. No debt” protest against the tuition being increased to £9,000. Brasenose stood out amongst the 13 colleges who accepted it, and its calls to provide students who wished to attend with money for transport.

Exeter JCR has similarly voted recently against affiliation with the NUS, calling their annual constitutional vote a tool for “democratic decision-making”. The motion resulted in 21 members voting against affiliation, compared to 9 in support and 6 abstaining.

Brasenose JCR also voted to disaffiliate from Oxford’s SU, with the JCR Secretary telling The Oxford Student that “students of Brasenose have felt a disconnect from the SU and its leadership”. He related this to the sense that “SU leadership were not being held accountable to the student body”, so the vote was intended “to pressurise change within the SU”.

In response to Brasenose’s disaffiliation, the SU told Cherwell they felt a “common room choosing to disaffiliate” was “a clear sign that we must work hard to improve our support, and listening to the student body about how we can develop a better SU is an absolute priority going forward”.

For their future relationship, the SU also expressed that the “SU President has reached out to Brasenose to discuss students’ discontents and how we can work with them to address any issues”.

Controversy has hit Brasenose before, with its low acceptance of state-school students and their former JCR president, Pierce Jones, dropping out of the SU presidential election in early 2021 due to his ‘racial biases’.

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