It’s been awhile, how are you?
I’m here with a much needed update of NUS National Conference 2016 – to set the record straight on some things you may have seen floating around in the media.
First thing’s first, the highlights of conference included;
- Me giving the best speech of my life in defence of #LoveSUs – that vote went in my favour. Hey hey.
- We got through every motion in the Union Development Zone for the first time in what might be ever, which is hella important. Union Development covers democracy, governance, and student opportunities. Things that are at the heart of our Unions, and it was great to be a part of the conference that made such great strides on this.
- There was a rave (with Robbiie & Richard.) Party and policy, that’s what we go to conference for.
- Matt Grange sassed out the whole of conference with his Block of 15 elections speech, (‘2006 called, it wants it’s HE policy back!’)
- Conference elected an openly Conservative candidate to Block of 15. That plus the fact it’s snowing in April has lead me to conclude that hell has frozen over. (But in all seriousness this is really great and important that we’re representing more than just left-wing politics in our National Union!)
- We voted to give the National Society of Apprentices a voice, they will now be able to send voting delegates to conference!
- WE VOTED FOR A FULL TIME NUS TRANS OFFICER AND AUTONOMOUS CAMPAIGN!
- Elections happened! Yay democracy!
On that last point, your NUS representatives for next year are:
President – Malia Bouattia
Vice President Union Development – Richard Brooks
Vice President Higher Education – Sorana Vieru
Vice President Further Education – Shakira Martin
Vice President Welfare – Shelly Asquith
Vice President Society & Citizenship – Robbiie Young
I’ll be very blunt, some of the elected officers are not the ones I voted for. However, the biggest democratic gathering of students in the world, (seriously though how cool is that?) has spoken, democracy has spoken. And I have no doubt that this team will deliver a hugely transformative year for NUS.
This leads me on to what I need to address, what I feel it’s important to talk about.
Some of you may have seen our NUS President-elect, Malia Bouattia, being mentioned a lot in the press in recent weeks, both leading up to and post her election.
I will not repeat what has been said about her, but I would strongly recommend you read her piece on all of this in the Guardian.
Let me be clear, I may not agree with Malia’s politics, and I do think there are things she has to be held accountable for, in particular regarding the concerns of Jewish students. But I do think that she is trying to address these. (Again, read the Guardian article!)
As she has about 3 months before she actually takes office, I will be reserving any judgement on her as President for what she will do as President. Also, I absolutely think that the amount of scrutiny she has been put under would not be given to, say, a white man in the same position.
Malia Bouattia is the first Black, Muslim, Woman President of the National Union of Students. This has made history, and she should be commended and congratulated for that.
Since her election, however, there are a few Unions whose students have called for disaffiliation from NUS, who believe it no longer represents them.
NUS’s power lies in collectivism. In a climate where our Students’ Unions very existence is under threat, (which it is, you just have to look at question 20 in the Higher Education green paper which questions our autonomy. The Trade Union reforms also give an indication as to how this government views collective action,) we need to stay together. We need to unite and fight.
Not only that, but NUS has been at the forefront of social change since its inception, fighting for liberation, justice, and equality. We cannot walk away from something so incredible, so groundbreaking and life changing, because of the results of one conference.
I can understand the disillusionment, but disaffiliation is not the answer.
To, loosely, quote the incredible current NUS President, Megan Dunn;
‘get organised, stand up for your beliefs, fight for what you believe in. Because win or lose we are stronger when we are together.’
If you don’t like the direction of NUS, organise. Either run to be an NUS delegate for next conference, or vote for people in that election that you know will represent your views. Dig in, and fight for what you believe in.
And more than that, we need to unite against the real problems. Anti-semitism is a huge issue in our movement that we need to tackle. The government is cutting vital funds, like maintenance grants, DSA, EMA, which enable disadvantaged groups of students to access education. The same government is targeting Black and Muslim students with their insidious PREVENT agenda. It is threatening our voice, our power, our Unions.
With the threats to students ever growing, we need to focus on what actually matters, fighting for our existence, together. Not fighting each other.