This year the National Union of Students (NUS) is holding its National Conference in Brighton, and the Badger has sent Dan Green and me to report. Dan is live tweeting at @TheBadgerNews.
This is the second day of Conference.
One of the first motions this morning was of special interest to us: Motion 314, “Media and SU Officer Elections”, which proposed allowing student media to report on elections during the process itself, and additionally proposed the NUS providing guidance on how to carry out that coverage.
Motion 4o1, NUS for the NHS, passes with a clear majority following an impassioned speech by Shelley Asquith. There was loud applause and the motion passed
Motion 402 was proposed by a delegate who gave a rousing speech in favour of supporting local communities and taking action to protect libraries and other community facilities. The cuts, he said, are part of a “class war” and it is predominantly the underprivileged who suffer. The motion passed.
Motion 403, #GrantsNotDebts, was somewhat controversial although it passed with the vast majority. One delegate and along against criticised
Motion 404, anti-Semitism on campus. The one of the delegates proposing it, from Oxford university, says that “it is vital that we tackle anti-Semitism head on”. The motion would ” recognise the issues the NUS itself has and resolve those”, accept an internationally established definition of anti-Semitism and “support individual student unions to better handle incidents”.
Ammendanent a) proposes commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day. The speaker proposing this is from Leeds University: because ” living memory of the Holocaust is passing “, he urges Conference to bring Holocaust victims into every campus. The speaker against is ” not against the Holocaust” but says she is against “commemorating just one mass genocide.” She says that in her time in education she has never been taught about the genocides of Tibet or Zanzibar, and that this makes it seem like “some lives are more important than others”.
The sunation says “this motion recognises the Jewish people, the disabled people, the LGBT people and the people of Roma deacent. Why do we have a problem commemorating the death of six million Jews?”
A proposal is made to remove one of the parts of the motion. A Jewish student stands up to criticise the definition of anti-Semitism given in the motion. “It conflates anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism and makes it impossible to criticise the state of Israel.”
The student who opposes the amendment argues that Israel is focussed on specifically when political criticisms are made and “that is anti-Semitic”.
Delegates voted on whether or not to remove the parts. A lot abstained, but the parts were kept.
A speaker from NEC delivered a speech in favour of the entire motion saying that “NUS has a problem with Jewish students” and that this motion is a solution.
The motion passed.
Motion 405: “mental health must be addressed across the UK”, said the delegate from York who proposed the motion. 30% of students have suicidal thoughts during the course of their degree, he said. The NUS needs to campaign to prioritise mental health, he said.
405 a) proposes placing suicide prevention centre-stage. No one spoke against the amendment and the amendment passed unanimously.
The motion, including the amendment,passed.
406: Preventing Prevent. The speaker from Bournemouth who proposes the motion says that Prevent makes black and minority ethnic Islamic students are not granted the basic right to feel safe in speaking up, which is a right every student deserves.
She says that NUS needs to acknowledge that universities are bound to Prevent, and that NUS must support students’ unions with whatever measures they see best and to campaign against the Government’s Prevent Agenda.
Amendment 406 a) asks for the NUS to obtain legal advice on what constitutes “radicalisation” and for SUs to publicly and openly oppose Prevent. No-one speaks against the amendment and it passed.
Amendment 406 b) “Preventing Prevent and FE”. The speaker says that Prevent is an issue not only in HE but in FE and “all across the student movement”. The speaker against says that FE students do not have the same legal autonomy as HE, and so the method proposed here would not necessarily work in her view.
Amendment 406 b) passed.
The main motion, as amended, passed.
Motion 407: ” let’s commit to making sure our campuses are open to all, not just those who can afford extortionate housing rates or put themselves on the line to pay them”. The motion passes.
Elections for President.
Malia Bouattia. She talks of how, at 7, she has to flee from her war-torn country and how both she and her father suffered attacks in education – “it was the fear for the future of our education that drove my parents to leave”. She says: “they taught us that education gives you the power to improve things”.
“This Conference has to be about society” and we must talk about liberation for parents, LGBTQ+ people, migrants, workers… Not just a students.
She designed the programme to tackle the black student attainment gap and she has also designed campaigns against Prevent. “We have stood outside Parliament time and time again to demand a liberated, free education”.
She says that we will have read in the media that ” I am a terrorist, that my politics are born form hate. How wrong that is… I have seen terroriam and suffered from it… I know too well the harns done by racism and persecution. I suffered it ever day.”
She asks Conference to make history and make her NUS’s first black woman president.
Megan Dunn – asks Conference to make her NUS President for one more year. “The same ideology which is attacking the poor and trades unions and dismantling education is getting up to attack our student movement”, she says. We need to be ready, she says. She says that the NUS must work to strengthen the movement. ” Sometimes we need to get down off our soap boxes and do the work”: joining together with trades unions, making petitions, campaigning – “that is how you actually change students lives”.
She says that mental health bstructirws need to be strengthened in every university band college so that “no one ever stops out of education again”.
She says “this movement needs to stop being a battleground and become the first line”. She says she said the same thing last year, but since then bullying and division has persisted. She urges Conference to get the bullies out for good.
Adil Waratch – He starts by saying that he, like every other student in the NUS, is an investor in people. He says he wants to go beyond the ” cycle of dependable” which students are caught in.
“I say that I am an investor in people because I want to bring out the best in people”
“I am not interested in launching into a career of being a politician who lies between his teeth” he says.
He says NUS has a duty to teach the government and those who cause division within the Union and beyond about justice. He wants an “open and honest national Union” which addresses “the so-called student concerns that make up a big deal”.
He says that everyone should be able to speak freely and not be in fear of working in danger.
Election winner: Malia Bouattia with 372 votes of 730 valid votes.
Conference erupted into cheers and shouts, with people running to form a crowd around Malia and congratulate her. The person announcing the results had to call for order before being able to resume the announcement, and reminded conference of the difficulties which some disabled delegates face with such noise levels.
Elections for Vice President Further Education.
Shakira Martin runs for re-election unopposed.
Starting off nervous and with a someqhat shaky voice, Shakira quickly gains momentum. “I’m a fighter, an FE fighter”, she says. She tells Conference they need to fight because “the Tories are out go get us.”
“I’m black, I’m a woman and I’m angry – and what?” She says to great applause.
She says she can provide a parallel leadership to Jeremy Corbyn’s push to hold the Tories accountable. She says it is her number one priority to work alongside trades unions and other campaigns go strengthen resistance.
“Next year let’s take it to another level” she says, proposing peaceful direct action, protests and weeks of action and activist training.
She says she will campaign for campaign to support BME students, women students and disabled students, who are “at the sharp end of education cuts”.
She finishes by asking the Conference: ” what does FE stand for?”
They chant right back at her: “Free Education, Further Education, For Everyone!”
Vice President Higher Education:
Priscilla Mensa: Starts saying “inequality dictates that I should not be here”, and talks about the challenges of being at Cambridge as a black woman student. ” what good is an HE sector which shuts some people out, whether because they are LGBTQ, female, black, disabled? An HE sector which leaves some students out means no-one wins.”
“The NUS is so stuck”, she says, that she was told not to run ” because the NUS is institutionally racist”. She says she must critique the NUS because it can be better if she is elected, and that the the learning environment must be more inclusive.
“I pull the rug from under tradition. That is what I do.” She said. She says that she will “make the national conversation on attainment local”, and she will right to cut the ties between ” great teaching and fees”.
Sorana Vieru: she starts by saying that she ran last year to reject the idea that there is a dichotomy between countering national issues and tackling local issues.
She tells Conference about the campaigns she has led this year which she wants to continue “to build a liberated education that works for all and not just the privileged few”.
“It’s not about changing a few policies, it’s about changing who has power” she says. Power cannot stay in the hands of “old, white, posh men”.
She says ” we must go behind some tavky idea if consumer rights and democratise education”. The key fights to be won are against the Green Paper, Prevent and student deportations, she says.
Vice President Welfare:
“I’m asking you to elect me as an officer who will never accept he status quo… Which has locked me out” She emphasises the need to protect mental health support over and above marketing, to get people to demonstrations and to protect benefits and financial support.
“Through perseverance we convinced the Government’s own terrorism reviewer to agree with usbthat Prevent should be repealed”. She says that of course the media and government don’t like NUs, and reminds Conference that “when David Cameron was campaigning against Nelson Mandela, NUS was leading the campaign against apartheid”.
” Re-elect me and I will ring fence at least 10% of the welfare budget for liberation”, she says. She also talks of her committment to a full-time Trans officer, both this year and last – and to making sure that if it is voted for, it is implemented.
Manya Mudarikiri: “I do not opt in or out of liberation, I am the person who liberation protects”. He talks about how he grew up with people who have now either died or are in prison, and how education saved him. But, he says, it is getting harder for students to be saved in that way, as education comes under more and more attacks.
In his Student’s Union at Surrey, he has campaigned against Prevent and givernment policies which in fact cauae radicalisation. Manya wants to make sure people can be free of racism and oppression in education.
He says he has not seen enough campaigning this year on housing. He wants to prioritise this issue along with mental health.
You can follow our live tweets of the event here: https://twitter.com/TheBadgerNews
The most useful document to help you follow along from home is the comprehensive list of all motions: http://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/nusdigital/document/documents/23606/CD10_final_proposals_v8.5
Freya Marshall Payne