NUS

Young Greens hold unprecedented national ballot for NUS conference

After a national ballot of all members, the youth branch of the Green Party has voted to back University of London Union Vice President Daniel Cooper by 71% to be the next leader of the NUS, and members also decided which other senior executive candidates to support.

Clifford Fleming, Young Greens co-chair, said: “As Greens we are proud to be fully democratic. In running this vote we have sent a signal to the rest of the student movement to follow suit. We have set a democratic precedent, and will be continuing it in future.

“Young Greens have made their decision clear, and we are pleased to announce we will be supporting Daniel Cooper for President. Daniel is a principled left-wing candidate who as ULU Vice President has shown his dedication to fighting for students and university staff alike, whether through the Tres Cosas cleaner campaign or opposing to shut down of ULU by university management.

“Young Greens will be pushing for free education, decent student grants and for an end to the startling inequalities now present in the sector, as well as supporting workers taking action for fair pay and opposing outsourcing and education cuts. Young Greens have voted to back candidates who stand up for justice in Higher Education.

“This is a crucial point just days before the conference begins, and Young Greens, along with activists in the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts and other progressive organisations, hope to set the tone and make this NUS conference a turning point for the student movement.”

Members were sent candidates manifestos by email on the 2nd April and asked to vote in an online poll of who to support, with the result announced on the 6th April via Facebook.

The vote will be an indicative ballot, and will influence how Young Green delegates vote at this weekend’s NUS conference in Liverpool from the 8th to 10th April.

Young Greens voted to support:

  • Daniel Cooper for President
  • Hannah Webb for Vice President Union Development
  • Kelly Rogers for Vice President Welfare
  • Sky Yarlett for Vice President Society and Citizenship
  • Jesse Dodkins for Vice President Further Education
  • Megan Dunn for Vice President Higher Education

 

 

Back in ’68…Building an anti-cuts NUS and an international movement

[This piece was written for Militant Student]

The president of the London School of Economics student union, David Adelstein, and Marshall Bloom, president of the Graduate Students’ Association, have been suspended for taking part in demonstrations and direct action against their leadership. Millions of people are taking to the streets in France, and there are massive protests in the US after the government ignores its people’s demands. The year? 1967.

But there are some crucial differences. In the ‘60s university education was free – indeed they actually paid students to go to university. Britain was under a relatively left-wing Labour government. Today we are facing the most brutal cuts for generations – and university fees are being tripled, alongside unprecedented cuts to teaching budgets and the humanities. These are disturbing, and simultaneously exciting, times. As nearly 100,000 workers join forces with students every day in Wisconsin, revolutions break out in the Middle East and Northern Africa and Britain prepares for it’s largest demonstration in years on March 26th – times seem to be changing. In a very big way.

And yet the head of the Bank of England, Mervyn King said recently he’s ‘surprised people aren’t angrier’. When a representative of the bourgeoisie says makes this kind of comment, students and workers know it is time to take the action to another level.

This action is becoming international. Spurred on by the student protests of last year, UK Uncut formed to challenge tax dodging. Just a few months later it has spawned off-shoots in the US, France, Canada and Sudan. In a globalised economy, direct action is too becoming globalised.

At home, however, over 100,000 UCU members look likely to strike this month, and like the radical students of the 1960s we should be joining these lecturers in solidarity – a concept summarised in the book ‘Student Power’ over 40 years ago – ‘the first students to revolt…may not be those who suffer most acutely’. For school and college students to see people already in university protesting against the rise in fees is immensely inspiring, and has strengthened the movement. In this ‘renewal of revolutionary politics’ we are seeing 17 year olds radicalising people in their 50s who were active during the miners strikes of the ‘80s. This is a unity the left hasn’t seen for a long time, and the recent election result in Ireland (five United Left Alliance candidates were elected) only adds to the evidence that unity can have a fortifying impact upon the cause for democratic change.

Figures alone mean little, but the left groups of the UK have seen their numbers grow over the past year, a fact that all socialists and students should welcome. These developments add to the call for a fighting NUS, and after Aaron Porter’s standing down, Mark Bergfeld (for president) and Michael Chessman’s (for vice-president of FE) election campaigns have shown there is a real chance for the National Union of Students to be transformed, as in the late ‘60s, to a body that truly defends its members.

But after the exam period, it is imperative that the movement is revitalised. Hundreds of thousands of public sector workers are set to lose their jobs this year. Two thirds of public sector workers are women, who are being hit disproportionately. Pandering to the national press, however, is the ‘freedom of the lemming’, as one commentator put it. November’s student protest last year put young people on the map, and sparked a national revolt. Both the March 26 demonstration and the march from Jarrow to London on the 1st of October will bring together many groups, but it is in the student unions and local communities that we must develop the fight – the anti-poll tax campaign had groups in nearly every part of the country when it was introduced.

So as youth unemployment reaches a million, like the LSE student union president of 1967, SU’s must put all they can into building diverse and progressive campaigns against the cuts, and ensuring that this year is the year for a left NUS. Adelstein, it’s worth knowing, was reinstated as president after a militant 10-day occupation at the university. Just something to take note of…

Aaron Porter chased through streets of Manchester

Students responded today to NUS president Aaron Porter’s careerism, u-turning and anemic leadership during the student movement by chasing him through the streets of Manchester today during the TUC/NUS demo against youth unemployment and the rise in fees.

Apparently several hundred protesters from Leeds and other areas broke away from the main demonstration to prevent the widely-deemed traitorous NUS leader from speaking. Porter then took ‘refuge’ in a student union building. His unpopularity is growing at a similar rate to Clegg’s it seems.

The further education NUS executive member who went on to replace his speech was egged off. When the people you are elected to represent despise you, you know your time is up. This year’s NUS conference is going to be very interesting indeed.

The report comes from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, which helped organise the demonstration in London today which reportedly saw 10,000 people protest against the attacks on education.

I had to give a rather dramatic reading of a politically themed creative writing piece today so couldn’t make the London demo, but solidarity with all those who turned out. If 10-15 thousand can demonstrate during the exam period then March the 26th is going to be huge.

Hundreds of students chase Aaron Porter through Manchester — National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts.

Government Sneaks Higher Fees into Schools Bill

The economy is failing, that is one thing the government can’t hide. But as the Education and Children’s Bill came out today, it was revealed that the government has tried to deceptively hide away a clause in the bill which allows for variable rates of interest on student loans – nothing to do with children, or schools: the main targets of the bill.The cover-up has not gone unnoticed.

This proposal would mean students could be paying after graduation, not only their massive burden of debt in fees, but interest on that debt which could be higher than the normal rate. Essentially, those least able to pay – working-class graduates, could face thousands of pounds of extra debt in interest. Of course, students who don’t have to take out loans won’t have to worry about this problem. The Bank of Mother and Father will take care of those privately educated young people.

The UCU has condemned the hidden clause – and even the increasingly weak NUS leadership has come out in opposition. Gove, who put forward the proposals, has been deemed a ‘power junkie’ by the NUT, as the bill also gives the minister unprecendented powers about the running of schools, while taking them out of democratic local authority control through Academies.

Tripled fees with variable interest rates will put off thousands of poorer students going to university – if indeed they can complete further education now that the EMA is being scrapped. Let’s get back out onto the streets with these worrying ‘reforms’ in mind.

 

 

Discipline returns? Gove publishes school reform – politics.co.uk.

Truro needs a student union more than ever

For those of you who are students at Truro College, it is obvious that many at the college are involved in local politics. But when myself and another fellow student found ourselves being escorted out of our lectures last week by senior management, to a meeting with two uniformed members of police, the intention seemed clear. Stifling any emerging activism.

The two officers in the meeting room were sitting happily with another member of senior management, and proceeded to effectively interrogate us about whether we were planning a demonstration, when it would be, and where it would be.

This was a meeting in college, with police, about what we were organising outside of college. The links between Truro College and local police are, I believe, close and politicised. And in a way, frightening. The college never hesitate to bring the police in on the slightest hint of a planned peaceful protest, despite it not being legally required that even the organisers contact the authorities. They have been all too willing to hand over any details to the police, and ‘warn’ them about local activity that students are planning. This meeting was just one of several we have been pressured to have with police, for almost every demonstration over the past few months. Being told by the police that they had ‘intelligence’ about another planned protest is almost inciting paranoia, and though not anything like the involvement of anti-terror police against the student movement in London, it is still somewhat worrying for all students, regardless of their political views.

It is understandable that a further education institution would want to be in liaison with the community police force, and despite some over-policing, the local force has been broadly supportive of our right to protest – perhaps even sympathetic when one considers the scale of police cuts Cornwall. But the barrage of calls and meetings, largely organised by the college, with police, has been verging on intimidatory. For a couple of FE students to be made without warning to meet with officers to disclose plans, existent or otherwise, for demonstrations, seems to be intentionally discouraging any exercise of our legitimate right to protest.

These are not isolated events. Members of the Student Council who have been participating in the demonstrations have been threatened with removal from their posts on the student body. However weak the student council is, this sort of interference cannot be tolerated. Elected members are being told they cannot march for their political views or they will be kicked off the council. An NUS-backed union would go a long way to stopping this happening.

At a time when young people are facing unprecedented attacks from the Tory-led government with the scrapping of the EMA, the tripling of fees, high youth unemployment and the effective privatisation of our education system, we need representation more than ever, we need to be allowed to express our political views without fear of recrimination, and we need an independent voice that does not have to submit to the whims of senior management.

Our attempts to form a union have so far been met with difficulty. We were refused a direct meeting with the Principal, and have been waiting for weeks for a meeting with the Director of Studies, who has several times postponed the planned meeting. It cannot wait any longer. The NUS are asking for delegates for the conference in just a few months, and ideally we need an SU before then. So we are asking all students, UCU/NUS members, activists and representatives to back our campaign.

There are some things deeply wrong with Truro College. The fact that there are more business-owners on the governing board than students, the lack of transparency in how the college is run, or the unfolding farce that is the poorly funded and powerless Student Council – these are all troubling issues, and for the many problems, there is a solution. Students need representation, independence and political freedom. We need a union.

The Fight For Education: After the EMA Vote

The Tory-led coalition had their way today, and voted to scrap a life-line to thousands of poorer students. A bid by Labour to save the Education Maintenance Allowance was defeated by Conservatives and Lib Dems who reject the idea that young people from low-income backgrounds should be encouraged to go on with further education. By doing so, they have condemned a generation to unemployment, a fact backed up by the latest figures: almost a million under-25’s are unemployed – a record high.

Students in Cornwall and other parts of the UK travelled to London to lobby MPs, to persuade them not to abolish the EMA scheme. Many were ignored. Some MPs spoke only to single students, despite many travelling hundreds of miles during the exam period. Some MPs would not even stop to explain their decision to betray young people. This betrayal will not be met with such apathy by students. The next couple of weeks will see more demonstrations nationwide to fight for education, to fight for our futures.

What are the NUS doing to support the struggle? They recently passed a ‘radical’ document calling for support for the demonstration in Manchester on the 29th – while completely ignoring the protest in London, the centre of power, and the national day of action on the 26th. Anti-cuts groups need to be becoming active in their student unions, in trade unions and local groups to support these demonstrations, regardless of which organisation is ‘leading’ them.

Billy Hayes of the CWU has been calling for unions to do exactly that,  declaring workers and students ‘allies in misfortune’, and heralding a ‘serious fight-back’. Other unions have been slower to take up the call. But as Hayes asks, ‘are we going to fight for our rights’ or not?

EMA could be funded, three times over, if only private schools paid VAT on their fees, meaning these elite institutions finally give something back other than Tory-cabinet ministers.

There is no fairness in the scrapping of the EMA. Peers in the House of Lords can claim an allowance of up to £300 a day just for turning up. And now our future doctors, academics, scientists and teachers are being denied £30 a week to continue with college. The Tories and Lib Dems can be certain. Once exams are over, there is going to be a serious surge of support for the fight-back, and it will not stop until those at the top find out what ‘being in this together’ really means.

South West Students to Lobby MPs to Save EMA

On Wednesday students from across the South West, including Devon and Cornwall, will be travelling up to Parliament to lobby their MPs not to scrap the Education Maintenance Allowance. The vote to decide the fate of EMAs, put forward by Labour MPs, will be on the day, and will coincide with protests in London and Manchester. The marches, though they have proven divisive, are expected to attract large turnouts as students put the French saying into action – ‘what government does, the streets can undo’.

The UCU in the South West are organising coaches up to London alongside the NUS, though the NUS have decided, to the anger of many, not to support the protests on the day.

Students in Cornwall, Devon and Somerset who wish to lobby MPs in Parliament on Wednesday can contact the regional UCU officer Philippa Davey on pdavey@ucu.org.uk.

And for those who aren’t convinced by the arguments to save the EMA, here’s a video of David Cameron pledging not to scrap it last year –