NCAFC conference 2014: strategies for the free education movement

10801560_10152915342554935_2403628664316281146_n (1)Around a hundred students from all over the UK came together this weekend to discuss the way forward for the free education movement. The general tone of conference was positive and constructive, following the upsurge in student activism this autumn. The conference included many new faces and campuses which have only come into activity recently following the national demo on November 19th, and subsequent days of action.

We planned a medium- and long-term strategy for the student movement, called more days of action, elected a national committee, and endorsed candidates to run in elections in the National Union of Students. As well as plenary sessions, we had caucuses for Liberation groups and for postgraduate, international and school & FE. There were also six workshop and skill-share sessions.

In this report:

  1. What conference voted for
  2. Election results
  3. NUS endorsements
  4. Motions and policy in full

1. What conference voted for.

The full text of the motions passed by conference is below. In short, conference voted to:

  • Develop a long term strategy for the student movement, including
    • Establishing the principle that there should be one united free education campaign in the UK
    • Calling for a student strike (i.e. walkouts and protests) for the calendar year of 2016
    • Producing, alongside other campaigns, academics and thinkers, a proper document about free education and what it means in different contexts
    • Continue to call local free education marches on weekend days in early 2015
    • Call a day of action in January around the idea of reclaiming student unions as a politicised space
    • Support the Fighting Against Casualisation in Education (FACE) initiative by education workers
  • Hold a national demonstration in Birmingham in term 2, targeted at Birmingham Uni and Liam Byrne, the Shadow Universities Minister
  • Intervene in NUS on a principled basis, while exploring alternatives and setting up an affiliations system to NCAFC
  • Ask NCAFC representatives in NUS to be more accountable to the campaign
  • Use the politicised atmosphere around the general election to push free education and other left wing politics, while retaining our emphasis on radical action
  • Establish a new safer spaces policy
  • Hold regional organising meetings in the new term to bring together local groups autonomously inside NCAFC
  • Begin to hold two democratic conferences per year, rather than just one

2. Election results

NCAFC has a national committee consisting of a Block of 14 elected by Single Transferable vote (with 40% reserved for women and gender-oppressed candidates) and reps from liberation caucuses, regions and other sections.

The new Block of 14 are:

  • Deborah Hermanns, London
  • Matt Myers, LSE
  • Zakir Gull, Oxford
  • Hope Warsdale, Warwick
  • Ben Towse, UCL
  • Fred Craig, Manchester
  • Oktay Cinpolat, Day-Mer Community Group
  • Omar Raii, UCL
  • Max O’Donnell-Savage, Sussex
  • Annie Teriba, Oxford
  • Hannah Sketchley, UCL
  • Mohammed Mumit, Birmingham
  • Helena Hinkle, Birmingham
  • Birmingham Defend Education (Women’s Place)

Other new reps are as follows

LGBTQ Caucus

  • Raquel Palmeira (UCL)

Black Power Caucus

  • Sara Dagha and Minesh Parekh (Sheffield)

Women’s Caucus

  • Hattie Craig (Birmingham) and Beth Redmond (City & Islington College)

Disabled Caucus

  • James Elliot (Oxford), Rachel O’Brien (Birmingham) and Tanju Cakar (Sheffield)

FE and school students

  • Nathan Rogers (South London)

International Students

  • Tania Sauma (Manchester)

Regional reps for Scotland and London were not re-elected at this conference. Any section or region can meet up, plan action and elect reps. A caucus of education workers and PhDs also took place, but decided to postpone electing a rep.

 

3. NUS endorsements

For the first time, NCAFC took a vote at conference about who to endorse in NUS Presidential and Vice Presidential elections. All primaries were run with a ballot which included the option to remit the endorsement to the national committee, and the option to endorse no-one. One candidate, Deborah Hermanns, withdrew from the NUS President primary before the election. The count was conducted by the Condorcet method.

The results were:

  • For NUS National President, NCAFC will support Beth Redmond
  • For Vice President (Higher Education) NCAFC will support Hattie Craig
  • For Vice President (Union Development) NCAFC will support Barnaby Raine
  • Vice President (Society and Citizenship) was remitted to the national committee
  • Vice President (Welfare) was remitted to the national committee
  • Vice President (Futher Eduacation) was remitted to the national committee

 

4. Motions in full

The following text passed at NCAFC conference 2014

1 – Intervening in NUS

NCAFC believes:

  1. Despite the heavily bureaucratised nature of NUS, and despite a history of betrayals by its leadership even where we have won the political arguments, we should continue to make interventions into it.
  2. NUS and local student unions are the only mass organisations of students. Activist groups like NCAFC and the local groups that make it up are vital, but they are a fundamentally different type of thing, made up only of those people already convinced of our goals. Though we can and should organise and take action outside unions, we can’t just completely ignore them and attempt to entirely substitute smaller groups of radicals in place of mass collective organisations.
  3. NUS and local unions are heavily bureaucratised. Legal frameworks, the influence of senior staff, relationships with university & college managers and government, and similar factors conspire to block radical activity and to place strong right-wing pressures on officers who get elected. So in the long-run we need to transform them – they should be participative, democratic, and founded in collective, combative action.
  4. We can’t transform NUS and our unions, or win things like free and democratic education, just by replacing right-wingers in the bureaucracy with left-wingers, or by diplomacy and manoeuvring within NUS structures. Instead our interventions have to be based on clear principles, and they have to be rooted in and accountable to activists on the ground.
  5. In the long-run, it is better to fight for our principles and our goals and find ourselves in a small minority, than to attempt to ingratiate ourselves with the circles and cliques that run in NUS and union structures.
  6. As a general rule, the prospect of losing a vote or losing allies should not hold us back from arguing for what we believe in.

NCAFC Resolves:

  1. We are not just a faction inside NUS. Our main purposes must remain organising and building for action, and convincing people to join that fight by discussing ideas: we should not let ourselves be consumed by competing within NUS.
  2. To put forward policies and election candidates in NUS on the basis of uncompromising, clear principles – NUS conferences and elections should be used as platforms to promote our ideas and our goals and to challenge the bureaucratised state of the NUS and the right-wing, anti-democratic records of much of its leadership. We should not water ourselves down in the hope of slipping through into power.
  3. Our interventions must be accountable to the movement we are building. Therefore, when we do win NUS posts for NCAFC candidates, we expect those officers and reps to remain closely accountable to NCAFC and its members. They should report regularly to the appropriate democratic structures in NCAFC, and consult with them over what they do in post at NUS.
  4. In general, the job of those officers and reps is to be the voice of grassroots left activists within NUS. Of course they should use their judgement to work with other officers and reps as appropriate, but they must put a priority on advocacy of our principles and goals and on representing activists on the ground, above diplomacy and manoeuvring within the circles and cliques that run in NUS and union structures.

 

1A – Amendment

NCAFC Believes:

  1. Almost all of our gains and successes have been made in spite of the NUS
  2. NUS has betrayed us consistently on every single important issue and every single major student mobilisation during and since the upsurge in 2010.
  3. The problem is not the individuals who run NUS – it is the structures themselves and the form of student unionism that makes up its membership
  4. When NCAFC activists and leftwingers get elected to SU and NUS positions, they need stronger support and stronger accountability than they presently have in order to prevent them from becoming coopted or inactive.

NCAFC further believes

  1. The foundation of a new national student union requires more time for discussion, more resources and more unity on the left than we currently have.
  2. While there is no prospect of creating a fully-blown alternative NUS in the coming months, we should open up a discussion about creating such an alternative in the coming months. This should include the possibility of a disaffiliation campaign, and should be brought to a conference in summer.
  3. We should produce materials by/for elected officers on “how not to become bureaucratised/rightwing/coopted/demoralised/inactive”. Primarily, this is through being meaningfully accountable to local activist groups.

NCAFC resolves

  1. To mandate the NC to set up a project.
  2. To mandate the NC to create a system of affiliations and tariffs for student unions who wish to affiliate to NCAFC now.
  3. To produce materials in FB3 of this amendment.

 

2 – NUS National Executive Committee and other committees

Notes

  1. That NCAFC has a number of supporters on NUS committees including the National Executive Council.

Believes

  1. That this presence has played a useful role in promoting left-wing/grassroots-activist/class struggle politics from within the structures of NUS, and our comrades on committees including the NEC have done many good things with it.
  2. That the operation of our comrades on the NEC nonetheless leaves something to be desired.
  3. That problems include: NCAFC supporters on the NEC failing to communicate and consult with each other and with the NC in the run up to meetings; failing to write reports before or afterwards; and ducking political fights in various ways.
  4. That the political problem is dramatised by the fact that there was no motion on the 19 November demonstration submitted to the 2 December NEC meeting, despite the NUS leadership’s outrageous sell out of the movement and subversion of NUS democracy – because most of our comrades would not second the motion proposed – and that it was only possible to submit an emergency motion because previously non-NCAFC people seconded it.
  5. That while there are sometimes tactical considerations and reasons for caution, in general we should use the NEC and similar committees to fight boldly and audaciously for our policies and politics. We owe this to the student movement; it is far more important than not pissing off right-wing and soft-left people in the NUS structures.

Resolves

  1. To call on NCAFC supporters on NUS NEC and other committees
    1. To consult and communicate with each other and with the NC in the run up to committee meetings about what to submit, how to intervene, etc, and publish notifications on the website about the issues coming up.
    2. To publish reports on the website after every meeting.
  2. That none of this means that our comrades on such committees cannot hold, express and put forward different or minority positions. The point is that there should be consultation and where possible cooperation.
  3. That NC meetings should include a section where members of NUS committees report back.
  4. To call on all NCAFC supporters, whatever their position in the movement, to use it in the spirit of a bold and audacious fight for left-wing/grassroots-activist/class-struggle politics.

 


 

3 – NCAFC and the General Election

NCAFC Notes:

  1. The upcoming UK general election in May.
  2. That the general approach of NUS and most student union leaderships to elections is to emphasise the importance of voting and voter registration, and where concrete demands are put, this is with little real force.

NCAFC Believes:

  1. Parliamentary democracy under capitalism is far better than nothing, but it is profoundly limited, and to achieve the kind of radical changes we want to see requires more than just electoral action. Whoever is in government – even left or centre-left parties – students, the working class and oppressed groups need to organise and use direct action and industrial action to fight for our interests. Negotiation and lobbying, without leverage, are not enough.
  2. Too much of the student union movement either fails to recognise this or merely pays lip-service. Worse, much of our leadership, especially officers aligned to the right-wing of Labour, actively suppresses criticism and radical action in service of their personal careerist ambitions.
  3. NCAFC includes supporters of various electoral parties as well as supporters of none, and this breadth is a good thing. We are united by shared political goals and a commitment to democratic grassroots organising and action.
  4. Our priority, as the activist left of the student movement, must be to convince people to go beyond voting – to convince them that whoever is in government, we need to organise and fight. Disillusionment with parliamentary democracy is already common; what we can offer is a positive response to that disillusionment.
  5. It would be self-defeating to ignore the fact that elections provide a key opportunity that should not be missed – there is raised political awareness and an atmosphere of greater potential for engagement.

NCAFC Resolves:

  1. To take advantage of the politicised atmosphere around the election to emphasise the following message – that while it is useful to vote, it is much more powerful to organise for action, and that whichever party or parties are in power at any level of government, it will be necessary to take combative action to secure our needs and goals.
  2. To push for this approach to elections within student unions and NUS.
  3. To continue building a combative movement for free education before and after the election, based in democratic organisation, protest and direct action. This campaign for free education should be more explicitly broadened to highlight the demand for a decent living grant to every student over the age of 16. Before the election we should be clear that we will be organising to fight whatever government is elected.
  4. To make a particular point of clearly highlighting and criticising the political failures and betrayals of Labour, the Greens and similar electoral parties, as it is especially important to drive a wedge against the right-wing within such organisations.

 

4 – The General Election and Free Education

Believes

  1. That the student movement should seek to use the general election to impose its demands, including free education.
  2. That UKIP’s racist anti-migrant agitation – and all mainstream parties’ acceptance of UKIP’s terms – will politically dominate the election period.

Resolves

  1. To organise meetings and actions in the student movement to assert the right of international students to free education; and more generally to oppose immigration controls and anti-migrant agitation.
  2. To ask the NC to consult on and produce a short statement of demands to campaign around in the run up to and during the general election.
  3. To work with the Labour Campaign for Free Education to demand that Labour adopts free education and other student demands.
  4. To work with the Young Greens.
  5. To seek public support from all the major national trade unions (and also their youth sections) for free education and our other demands.
  6. To work with local groups and student unions to organise a targeted rolling program of pickets and protest against MPs.

 

7 – Creating Safer Spaces

 

Safer Spaces Policy

NCAFC will ensure that events:

  • are hosted in venues as accessible as possible to the widest range of peopl
  • include, where possible, a supervised quiet room
  • are halted for an access break of no less than 10 minutes at the request of any one person, providing that there has not been one in the previous 90 minutes

It is the collective responsibility of all NCAFC members to ensure the following points are acted upon both during meetings/conferences/events and online on the NCAFC Loomio, Facebook page and website (where points are applicable):

  1. Participants should respect the facilitatory methods of the Chair and only challenge them through the appropriate structures
  2. Participants should not discriminate against anyone on the basis of race, sex, gender, age, sexuality, language, disability, asylum status, religious affiliation or any other structurally oppressive criteria.
  3. Everyone should get explicit verbal consent before touching someone, this is a part of respecting one another’s emotional and physical boundaries. Sexual harassment or sexual assault will lead to the perpetrator being banned from the premises and potential police involvement, if desired by the victim(s), will be fully supported. If you encounter any kind of harassment or assault please let us know, so that those responsible can be dealt with.
  4. We should avoid assuming the opinions and identification of other participants. Examples include, but are not limited to, assumptions regarding sex, sexuality, gender identity, preferred personal pronouns, neurotypicality, able-bodied status, socio-economic background, relationship model (monogamous, polyamorous etc.) and religious beliefs.
  5. During meetings and other related non-social events refrain from consuming alcohol or recreational drugs
  6. We should give one another the time and space to speak, using appropriate, understood and agreed hand signals where relevant
  7. We are responsible not only for our own behaviour but for challenging poor behaviour in others
  8. We should always be aware of the social space we occupy, as well as the positions and privileges we may be conveying, including racial, class and gender privilege. If a member of a liberation group (keeping in mind that it is possible to be oppressive whilst identifying also identifying as a part of that oppressed group) requests that you change your use of language regarding topics about their liberation, please respectfully consider their request. If you are unsure as to the reason your language was inappropriate or offensive, please politely request that the complainant explain, if they feel they are able to or are willing to with the understanding that they in no way owe you this explanation. Failing this, remove yourself from the situation and take on personal research on the matter.
  9. During all meetings and events there should be access breaks for a minimum of ten minutes at least every 90 minutes and/or upon request.

Accountability processes

  1. NCAFC should elect a Safer Spaces working group/committee who are committed to ensuring the enacting of the Safer Spaces Policy both at events and in online organising spaces (e.g. the NCAFC Loomio , website and Facebook page).
    1. This working group will deal with any and all breaches of the Safer Spaces Policy, or complaints regarding it.
    2. The working group should be up for re-election at every conference at a minimum
    3. The working group should include at least one person from each liberation caucus (BME, Women’s, LGBTQ and Disabled) though other may join if they wish to
    4. The working group should be composed of at least eight people, if not more
    5. It shall be the duty of the working group to deal with complaints in a timely and sensitive manner
  2. During meetings if the Safer Spaces Policy is breached members on the working group should feel free to point it out and attempt to deal with it. Others may also come forward to inform the working group about Safer Spaces breaches. All complaints should be taken seriously.

Language/assumptions/biases complaints

  1. If oppressive language is used it should be challenged as soon as possible
  2. Generally, if people feel able, it should addressed immediately and called out, with appropriate explanations as to why it is oppressive and what language might be used instead
  3. If the offender apologises and changes their language immediately, and this is their first or one of their first offences, the matter need not be pursued any further
  4. If, however, this person refuses to change their language and/or is a repeat offender the matter should be taken up by the working group who will discuss further measures to take including:
  5. Issuing the offender with a formal warning (written or verbal) and explanation of how their use of language is offensive, reminding them of the Safer Spaces Policy
  6. Asking the offender to leave the group entirely if it is felt that they are not at all receptive, after the formal warning
  7. If it is felt this is a widespread or commonly misunderstood issue there should be discuss of a workshop to inform others on the issues surrounding this particular complaint

Oppressive behaviours section was remitted to the national committee for further discussion

Physical/Sexual harassment, assault and violation of boundaries

  1. If members or the working group witnesses or hears of any form of coercive, non-consenting physical or sexual assault they should encourage the victim to come forward and report it. Only if the victim is comfortable should this be taken to the official working group, they are under no obligation to report it.
  2. This matter should be dealt with by as few people as possible. One person on the working group should be involved directly with the complainant. They should remain anonymous to all other members of the working group to try and avoid bias. The case should be presented in a neutral, victim-led way.
  3. The case should be reviewed by the working group taking into consideration statement from both the victim and the accused, but with the understanding that this process should always depend on the victim’s wishes. It is NOT for the working group to decide whether or not the accused is guilt they ONLY decide if they consider them a threat to others and the victim’s safety.
  4. The working group may decide to take any or all of the following measures:
  5. Issue a warning to the offender that their behaviour has made others uncomfortable and that any further breach may lead to more serious action being taken
  6. Banning the offender from all future events and online forums
  7. Banning the offender for a fixed period of time
  8. Ensuring that the offender and the victim (and those affected) are not in the same spaces
  9. Supporting the victim in either legal action or restorative justice

 


 

8 – Creating a long term strategy for the free education movement

NCAFC believes:

  1. The past few months have been the product of an unprecedented level of work and strategy done by student activists – inside NCAFC and outside – and we need to keep this going and continue to develop a strategy that can keep the student movement going and beat the government.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To develop a strategy which includes:
    1. More effective raising and using of resources, looking towards paying national organisers
    2. The expansion and improvement of local groups
    3. The expansion and improvement of NCAFC
    4. More and better direct action
    5. More effective and clearer strategies for interacting with institutions – including NUS and formal politics
  2. To release a ‘ free education battleplan’ and to develop an organisational strategy based on (a) the resolves of this motion (after amendments), along with (b) other actions and strategies we pass at conference and (c) elements of informal discussion from conference incorporated by the NC.

 

8B – Amendment

  1. To establish the point of principle that there should be one united organisation on the student left campaigning for free education.

 

8C – Amendment

NCAFC Believes:

  1. NCAFC has consistently played a role in facilitating long-term strategizing in the student movement, and this needs to continue. At present, this has gone as far as thinking months in advance: towards a national demonstration.
  2. We need to think not just months in advance, but years in advance. The fight for free education – of the kind which are campaigning for – will take many years to accomplish, and will require us to pull of actions and national co-ordinations that are far in excess of what we have managed since 2010.
  3. A national student strike – taken to mean a truly mass wave of direct action, protest and civil disobedience – would give us the focus for a new wave of student struggle. Such events do not happen by accident or by genius of timing: they happen because organisations like ours decide on a strategy and make them happen.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To begin building for a student strike – with local demonstrations and blockades –in the calendar year of 2016.

8D – Amendment

NCAFC believes

  1. We have spent the past 9 months talking in various ways about what free education “really means” and “how it can be achieved”.
  2. We should make this project more intellectually serious.
  3. We should write it down.

NCAFC revolves

  1. We will produce a proper document about free education over the next few months, with contributions from a wide range of activists, academics and thinkers. This document should represent the breadth and depth of the movement we are building, including HE and FE, etc.
  2. We will launch this document in March 2015.

 

8E – Amendment

NCAFC notes

  1. Last weekend (6th December) saw a series of local marches and actions on a weekend day, in Brighton, London, Bath, Hastings and Chichester.

NCAFC believes

  1. These local marches were mostly small. However, they were successful in their basic task: bringing in local communities and workers. This task is not easy, and it will not be short – but it is absolutely central to making the campaign for free education successful.

NCAFC resolves

  1. To continue to call local marches and similar actions on weekend days in the new term.

 

8F – Amendment

NCAFC notes

  1. There are loads of student unions
  1. These unions are physical spaces
  2. We often do lots of occupying campuses while abandoning SUs to a commericialised tat

NCAFC believes

  1. SUs should be political spaces – physically, and not just in policy and on paper
  2. We should do a day of action targeted at unions – in sympathetic unions this could be done by or with sabbatical officers, and in crap ones we could occupy them

NCAFC resolves

  1. To call a day of action for a weekday in late January based around (a) using the space of student unions to build free education campaigns and (b) making a point about the depoliticisation and commercialisation of student unions.

 

8G – Amendment: Grassroots workers’ struggles

NCAFC Believes:

  1. Support for workers’ rights and a politics of class struggle have been consistent parts of NCAFC and should continue to be.
  2. Any effort to win free education must be fundamentally intertwined with education workers’ struggles.
  3. Like the NUS, workers’ unions in education such as the UCU and Unison are bureaucratised.
  4. Left-wing organising within these unions (for instance, by groups like the UCU Left) has often been too focussed on winning posts in the union structures and has done too little to organise the kind of radical democratic rank-and-file campaigns that would be needed to transform those unions, win serious gains for workers, and transform education.
  5. Casualised academic workers (many of whom are students, e.g. teaching assistants) have recently been involved in building local campaigns with a more grassroots attitude (most prominently the SOAS Fractionals). Some of these workers, including some NCAFC activists, are beginning to network and are now planning a conference focussed on such struggles for the new year (“FACE: Fighting Against Casualisation in Education”).
  6. From a student perspective, solidarity with workers has sometimes been used to mean uncritical support for the official structures of the labour movement and their leaders, even when those leaders are selling out workers. We should not hesitate to “take sides” when necessary within the labour movement – for those advocating the kind of grassroots democracy and radical action NCAFC promotes in the student movement, against the bureaucracy.

NCAFC Resolves:

  1. To support and help promote the FACE conference.
  2. To reach out and attempt to build strong links of mutual solidarity with this emerging tendency and any similar ones.
  3. To support NCAFC members involving themselves in the labour movement in favour of radical, grassroots, class-struggle politics.
  4. To encourage our local groups and activists to help build and support local campaigns of this type.
  5. To incorporate practical solidarity and coordination with workers and their campaigns, along the lines set out above, into our strategy going forward.

 


 

9 – Proposal for a National Demonstration in Birmingham

Next term the student movement will need to organise more action to keep free education (as well as opposition to cuts and privatisation, opposition to victimisations and anti-democratic crackdowns, and solidarity with workers in struggle) on the agenda. This will mostly be local action but it would also be good to have another national focus for the movement.

This is a proposal to hold a national demonstration in Birmingham sometime in the second term. Why?

  1. It would be good to demonstrate somewhere other than London.
  2. There is an important activist group in Birmingham, Defend Education, which has many of its own issues to highlight, needs support and can build effectively locally.
  3. The Labour Party’s Higher Education spokesperson, Liam Byrne, is a Birmingham MP, and is busy selling out even the crap 6k fees promise Ed Miliband made to students. We should take the demonstration to his constituency and embarrass him and Labour.

A national demonstration for free education in Birmingham, with has as one element condemning Labour’s repeated sell outs and wholesale capitulation to neo-liberalism and demanding it changes it policy to free education, would be a good thing to do.

We could also get trade unions locally and nationally to support and sponsor the demonstration – starting with local support and then demanding national support.

Clearly we are not going to get 10,000 students to Birmingham in February, but we can get a very substantial number if we start organising now. We should seek to get student unions and activist groups to organise transport.

NCAFC should work with BDE on this and call for wider support.


 

 

 

11 – Organising Regional Meetings (This motion was remitted to the national committee and passed there)

NCAFC notes:

  1. That the number of active local campus anti-cuts/free education groups has increased in the past few months

NCAFC believes:

  1. That helping these groups to co-ordinate regional meetings could lead to greater links between activists in a similar localities, enable them to discuss issues relevant to their area, organise joint direction actions and pass on skills and knowledge between different activists and groups
  2. That these regional groups are potentially in a better position to help start up activist groups on nearby campuses than the National Committee

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To work with established anti-cuts/free education groups to work out sensible regional groupings
  2. To work with these groups to set up and publicise regional meetings in the spring term where different groups and activists for a similar area can come together
  3. That these regional meetings shall be autonomous from NCAFC but they may decide to establish themselves as a “Region” and thus secure a place on the National Committee. They may decide their own policy, hold their own elections and organise their own actions if they so choose

 


 

12 – Amendment to the Constitution: Having two democratic conferences per year

NCAFC notes:

  1. At present, we only have one formal democratic conference per year (with some interim liberation caucuses in summer on an ad hoc basis).
  2. There is a high turnover in student activism: being an NC member in two academic years may lead to some people dropping out half way through their term.
  3. NCAFC has held 1 to 2 summer events every year since 2011.

NCAFC conference believes:

  1. We have had a historic problem with NC members becoming inactive following the end of an academic year. It does not make sense for some activists to be bound to a role which they cannot fulfil. It makes even less sense for activists not to run for NC because they are worried they would not continue in the role satisfactorily
  2. Ideally, we would re-elect the NC every six months. However, doing this at present would mean either electing the NC from an unreliably attended conference or expending a large part of NCAFC’s organisational energies into building another conference.
  3. We should hold a Summer Conference every year – which could be combined with summer training – which:
    1. Takes place in June, July, August or September
    2. Allows NC members who are about to become inactive to stand down, and elect replacements
    3. Discusses and passes policy and strategy proposals for the summer/autumn term
    4. Does not amend the constitution
    5. Does not re-elect the whole NC

NCAFC conference resolves:

  1. To amend the constitution as follows:

In Section 4, REPLACE all relevant mentions of ‘conference’ with ‘annual conference’
DELETE Bullet point 2 in 4.A.1: “There shall be at least one conference per academic year”, and REPLACE “There shall be at least one annual conference per year and one Summer Conference per year, as laid out below”.
ADD 4.A.6:

“In the months of June, July, August or September, NCAFC will hold a summer conference. This can be combined with another event (such as a training or gathering event) and will have the power to:

  • Discuss and approve strategies for the coming months through a motions process
  • Fill vacant or inactive posts on the National Committee, including through caucuses

Before the Summer Conference, NC members who are currently or are planning to become inactive in student activism are encouraged to resign so that their place can be refilled at the conference.”

PRESS RELEASE: Warwick occupation served with injunction

This is cross-posted from the Warwick blog:

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: 07850652962, 07821731481, 07713285676, 07826788618

*** Management takes student occupation to court 

*** Two students have been threatened to have to pay for legal costs 

*** Similar injunctions have previously been condemned by Amnesty International for breaching human rights

University management are seeking to evict the occupiers of the Rootes building, serving them with an injunction without engaging in any negotiations WARWICK INJUNCTIONover students’ demands.

The occupation began on Thursday evening following a demonstration of over 1,000 students in protest at the university’s handling of a sit-in on Wednesday, where West Midlands police used CS gas on students and threatened them with a taser.

Management’s conduct is in direct contrast to the reaction of the University of the West of England, where today Vice-Chancellor Steve West visited the campus free education occupation within hours to discuss and negotiate occupiers’ demands.

The Warwick occupation demands include: a call for Vice-Chancellor Nigel Thrift to retract his statement about the alleged assault which has been refuted by witnesses unless he can prove otherwise; to uphold the right to peaceful protest, to support free education, and condemn the unjustified and disproportionate violence used against students.

The demands were democratically decided in the occupation of over 300 students on Thursday evening, following a demonstration of over 1,000 students, the largest in Warwick’s history.

Callum Cant, who is named in the injunction, said: “Management’s attitude, by taking out an injunction and seeking to suppress peaceful protest, shows that they are prepared to spend huge sums of money on legal fees rather than apologise for the disgusting treatment of a peaceful sit-in.”

Deborah Hermanns, from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, said: “This outrageous move follows similar legal action taken at other universities, including one at Birmingham which was condemned by Amnesty International for breaching human rights. We utterly deplore Warwick management’s decision and will continue to fight for the right to protest on each and every campus – free from management and police repression.”

 

warwick1 warwick2

UWE occupation statement

uweStudents at the University of the West of England have gone into occupation in support of Free Education for all. Education is a human right that has increasingly been annexed off by the political elite for the privileged few, for those able to take on the £44,000 worth of debt that an undergraduate degree incurs. In protesting this system over the past week students at Warwick University have been met with police brutality, pepper sprayed and threatened with tasers; students at Sheffield University have been illegally and dangerously locked into their occupation, with security blocking fire exits with the use of chains and padlocks.

Bristol’s students are united in solidarity with their comrades nationally and across the world that are standing up for their rights, and resisting oppression by the elite. We send our full hearted support to the students of Mexico who live in constant fear of being abducted and killed for demanding what is theirs and those in the United States suffering and resisting police brutality.

Join us in lecture room 2B025 to stand up for:
• Free Education
• Cancellation of student debt
• Unconditional student grants
• Our freedom to protest
• A living wage and fair conditions for all staff who work for UWE directly or indirectly
• Divestment of arms trade connections
• Police off campus

Universities are not factories, nor prisons. Knowledge is not a consumer product and we are not your clients.

@UWEFreeEd
www.facebook.com/FreeEducationUWE

Motions and amendments for NCAFC conference

20-march-demoBelow is a list of motions and amendments submitted to NCAFC conference, which will be debated on the final day of NCAFC conference (14th December) in Manchester. They are displayed in the order they were submitted. They can be debated in a different order on the day.

There is no formal process for emergency motions at NCAFC conference, but in practice they are likely to be accepted.

Please remember register to attend the conference; only NCAFC members will be allowed to vote in the selection process.

  • 1 – Intervening in NUS
    • 1A – Amendment
  • 2 – NUS National Executive Committee and other committees
  • 3 – NCAFC and the General Election
  • 4 – The General Election and Free Education
  • 5 – Amendment to the constitution: Abolishing group seats on the National Committee
  • 6 – Our working environment
  • 7 – Creating safer spaces
    • 4A – Amendment
  • 8 – Creating a long term strategy for the free education movement
    • 8A – Amendment
    • 8B – Amendment
    • 8C – Amendment
    • 8D – Amendment
    • 8E – Amendment
    • 8F – Amendment
    • 8G – Amendment: Grassroots workers’ struggles
  • 9 – Proposal for a National Demonstration in Birmingham
  • 10 – International question
  • 11 – Organising Regional Assemblies
  • 12 – Amendment to the constitution: Having two democratic conferences per year

 

1 – Intervening in NUS

Proposed by UCL Defend Education

NCAFC believes:

  1. Despite the heavily bureaucratised nature of NUS, and despite a history of betrayals by its leadership even where we have won the political arguments, we should continue to make interventions into it.
  2. NUS and local student unions are the only mass organisations of students. Activist groups like NCAFC and the local groups that make it up are vital, but they are a fundamentally different type of thing, made up only of those people already convinced of our goals. Though we can and should organise and take action outside unions, we can’t just completely ignore them and attempt to entirely substitute smaller groups of radicals in place of mass collective organisations.
  3. NUS and local unions are heavily bureaucratised. Legal frameworks, the influence of senior staff, relationships with university & college managers and government, and similar factors conspire to block radical activity and to place strong right-wing pressures on officers who get elected. So in the long-run we need to transform them – they should be participative, democratic, and founded in collective, combative action.
  4. We can’t transform NUS and our unions, or win things like free and democratic education, just by replacing right-wingers in the bureaucracy with left-wingers, or by diplomacy and manoeuvring within NUS structures. Instead our interventions have to be based on clear principles, and they have to be rooted in and accountable to activists on the ground.
  5. In the long-run, it is better to fight for our principles and our goals and find ourselves in a small minority, than to attempt to ingratiate ourselves with the circles and cliques that run in NUS and union structures.
  6. As a general rule, the prospect of losing a vote or losing allies should not hold us back from arguing for what we believe in.

NCAFC Resolves:

  1. We are not just a faction inside NUS. Our main purposes must remain organising and building for action, and convincing people to join that fight by discussing ideas: we should not let ourselves be consumed by competing within NUS.
  2. To put forward policies and election candidates in NUS on the basis of uncompromising, clear principles – NUS conferences and elections should be used as platforms to promote our ideas and our goals and to challenge the bureaucratised state of the NUS and the right-wing, anti-democratic records of much of its leadership. We should not water ourselves down in the hope of slipping through into power.
  3. Our interventions must be accountable to the movement we are building. Therefore, when we do win NUS posts for NCAFC candidates, we expect those officers and reps to remain closely accountable to NCAFC and its members. They should report regularly to the appropriate democratic structures in NCAFC, and consult with them over what they do in post at NUS.
  4. In general, the job of those officers and reps is to be the voice of grassroots left activists within NUS. Of course they should use their judgement to work with other officers and reps as appropriate, but they must put a priority on advocacy of our principles and goals and on representing activists on the ground, above diplomacy and manoeuvring within the circles and cliques that run in NUS and union structures.

 

1A – Amendment

Proposed by Deborah Hermanns

ADD the following

NCAFC Believes:

  1. Almost all of our gains and successes have been made in spite of the NUS
  2. NUS has betrayed us consistently on every single important issue and every single major student mobilisation during and since the upsurge in 2010.
  3. The problem is not the individuals who run NUS – it is the structures themselves and the form of student unionism that makes up its membership
  4. When NCAFC activists and leftwingers get elected to SU and NUS positions, they need stronger support and stronger accountability than they presently have in order to prevent them from becoming coopted or inactive.

NCAFC further believes

  1. The foundation of a new national student union requires more time for discussion, more resources and more unity on the left than we currently have.
  2. While there is no prospect of creating a fully-blown alternative NUS in the coming months, we should open up a discussion about creating such an alternative in the coming months. This should include the possibility of a disaffiliation campaign, and should be brought to a conference in summer.
  3. We should produce materials by/for elected officers on “how not to become bureaucratised/rightwing/coopted/demoralised/inactive”. Primarily, this is through being meaningfully accountable to local activist groups.

NCAFC resolves

  1. To mandate the NC to set up a project.
  2. To mandate the NC to create a system of affiliations and tariffs for student unions who wish to affiliate to NCAFC now.
  3. To produce materials in FB3 of this amendment.

2 – NUS National Executive Committee and other committees

Proposed by Workers’ Liberty

Notes

  1. That NCAFC has a number of supporters on NUS committees including the National Executive Council.

Believes

  1. That this presence has played a useful role in promoting left-wing/grassroots-activist/class struggle politics from within the structures of NUS, and our comrades on committees including the NEC have done many good things with it.
  2. That the operation of our comrades on the NEC nonetheless leaves something to be desired.
  3. That problems include: NCAFC supporters on the NEC failing to communicate and consult with each other and with the NC in the run up to meetings; failing to write reports before or afterwards; and ducking political fights in various ways.
  4. That the political problem is dramatised by the fact that there was no motion on the 19 November demonstration submitted to the 2 December NEC meeting, despite the NUS leadership’s outrageous sell out of the movement and subversion of NUS democracy – because most of our comrades would not second the motion proposed – and that it was only possible to submit an emergency motion because previously non-NCAFC people seconded it.
  5. That while there are sometimes tactical considerations and reasons for caution, in general we should use the NEC and similar committees to fight boldly and audaciously for our policies and politics. We owe this to the student movement; it is far more important than not pissing off right-wing and soft-left people in the NUS structures.

Resolves

  1. To call on NCAFC supporters on NUS NEC and other committees
    1. To consult and communicate with each other and with the NC in the run up to committee meetings about what to submit, how to intervene, etc, and publish notifications on the website about the issues coming up.
    2. To publish reports on the website after every meeting.
  2. That none of this means that our comrades on such committees cannot hold, express and put forward different or minority positions. The point is that there should be consultation and where possible cooperation.
  3. That NC meetings should include a section where members of NUS committees report back.
  4. To call on all NCAFC supporters, whatever their position in the movement, to use it in the spirit of a bold and audacious fight for left-wing/grassroots-activist/class-struggle politics.

 

3 – NCAFC and the General Election

Proposed by UCL Defend Education

NCAFC Notes:

  1. The upcoming UK general election in May.
  2. That the general approach of NUS and most student union leaderships to elections is to emphasise the importance of voting and voter registration, and where concrete demands are put, this is with little real force.

NCAFC Believes:

  1. Parliamentary democracy under capitalism is far better than nothing, but it is profoundly limited, and to achieve the kind of radical changes we want to see requires more than just electoral action. Whoever is in government – even left or centre-left parties – students, the working class and oppressed groups need to organise and use direct action and industrial action to fight for our interests. Negotiation and lobbying, without leverage, are not enough.
  2. Too much of the student union movement either fails to recognise this or merely pays lip-service. Worse, much of our leadership, especially officers aligned to the right-wing of Labour, actively suppresses criticism and radical action in service of their personal careerist ambitions.
  3. NCAFC includes supporters of various electoral parties as well as supporters of none, and this breadth is a good thing. We are united by shared political goals and a commitment to democratic grassroots organising and action.
  4. Our priority, as the activist left of the student movement, must be to convince people to go beyond voting – to convince them that whoever is in government, we need to organise and fight. Disillusionment with parliamentary democracy is already common; what we can offer is a positive response to that disillusionment.
  5. It would be self-defeating to ignore the fact that elections provide a key opportunity that should not be missed – there is raised political awareness and an atmosphere of greater potential for engagement.

NCAFC Resolves:

  1. To take advantage of the politicised atmosphere around the election to emphasise the following message – that while it is useful to vote, it is much more powerful to organise for action, and that whichever party or parties are in power at any level of government, it will be necessary to take combative action to secure our needs and goals.
  2. To push for this approach to elections within student unions and NUS.
  3. To continue building a combative movement for free education before and after the election, based in democratic organisation, protest and direct action. This campaign for free education should be more explicitly broadened to highlight the demand for a decent living grant to every student over the age of 16. Before the election we should be clear that we will be organising to fight whatever government is elected.
  4. To make a particular point of clearly highlighting and criticising the political failures and betrayals of Labour, the Greens and similar electoral parties, as it is especially important to drive a wedge against the right-wing within such organisations.

4 – The General Election and Free Education

Proposed by Workers’ Liberty

Believes

  1. That the student movement should seek to use the general election to impose its demands, including free education.
  2. That UKIP’s racist anti-migrant agitation – and all mainstream parties’ acceptance of UKIP’s terms – will politically dominate the election period.

Resolves

  1. To organise meetings and actions in the student movement to assert the right of international students to free education; and more generally to oppose immigration controls and anti-migrant agitation.
  2. To ask the NC to consult on and produce a short statement of demands to campaign around in the run up to and during the general election.
  3. To work with the Labour Campaign for Free Education to demand that Labour adopts free education and other student demands.
  4. To work with the Young Greens.
  5. To seek public support from all the major national trade unions (and also their youth sections) for free education and our other demands.
  6. To work with local groups and student unions to organise a targeted rolling program of pickets and protest against MPs.

5 – Amendment to the constitution – abolishing group seats on the National Committee

Proposed by UCL Defend Education

NCAFC believes

  1. The ability for local groups, not just individuals, to take seats on the National Committee (NC) has failed as a system since it was introduced last year.
  2. These group delegate seats raise problems for democracy and accountability.
    1. They make the elections less democratic and more apolitical. NCAFC members at conference can vote for individuals on the basis of their different political ideas of the NCAFC, ensuring that different political tendencies are fairly represented within the NC via an STV voting system – but you cannot vote for a local group on a clear political basis unless you pretend that local groups are basically politically homogeneous and relatively unchanging. In reality the basis of the elections then tends to become more apolitical or clique-based.
    2. This raises the question – to whom is the NC accountable? These delegates are supposed to be accountable to their local groups – so they cannot be properly accountable to the wider membership of NCAFC, unlike individual members who can be held accountable to the politics on which they ran for election.
    3. These delegate seats mean that rather than the whole membership (via conference) being represented by the NC, instead a small number of local groups are given disproportionate power. Those members who happen to be in local groups that for whatever reason don’t get delegate seats elected, or isolated outside sustained groups, are less well-represented.
  3. Most of the examples of delegate seats this year have not worked in terms of being able to involve the whole group deeply and consistently in decision-making. This is not an easy system to make work unless a group is, and consistently remains, large, well-established and sustained in activity.
  4. The best way for the NC to be democratic, fairly representative and accountable to the whole membership of the NCAFC is for our elections to be as political and direct as possible. Individuals should stand and be elected on the basis of their ideas, their proposals and their activist work.
  5. There are better, more consistently democratic ways for activists and groups on the ground to participate in decision-making continuously between conferences. We should make more use of the new web forum to discuss issues, and we should develop our regional sections which could allow different activists and groups to meet more regularly and feed up and down.
  6. When it becomes necessary to bring new individuals into the private discussions of the NC between conferences (e.g. the central organisers of last month’s demo) the more consistent and democratic way to let that happen is for the NC to vote to let them be non-voting observers.

NCAFC Resolves:

  1. To amend Section 4.B.2. of the NCAFC constitution as follows so that the block of 14 seats on the NC must be taken by individuals:

The National Committee consists of:

  • 14 members, or affiliated groups,elected by single transferable vote (with 40% of the places reserved for women)
  • 1 voting representative for each Liberation Campaign (which can be shared)
  • 1 voting representative for each Region or Nation (which can be shared)
  • 1 voting representative for each Section (which can be shared)
  • Affiliated groups can offer themselves as candidates for election to the National Committee, as either an ‘open place delegate’ or as a ‘women-only delegate’. They will then stand in the election along with the other individual members, in either the ‘open’ section or the ‘women-only’ section.

For the election count the group shall be considered as a normal candidate. If the candidate is a ‘women-only delegate’ it shall be counted towards the reserved places for women. If it is an ‘open place delegate’ it shall not.


If the delegate place is elected the group will be able to fill that seat with a recallable delegate as it sees fit. If the delegate place is ‘women-only’ then the delegate must be a self-defining woman.

Where a vote is shared, the representatives present must come to a majority view of how to vote; if not, they must abstain.

Sections and Regions are self-organising groups, and exist once they are recognised by the NC.

Any NCAFC member may attend NC meetings, and the NC can invite others if it wishes to. The NC can establish working groups of whoever it wants to take on various projects.

6 – Our working environment

Proposed by: NCAFC National Committee

NCAFC believes

  1. That we should have high expectations of good behaviour to ensure as safe and pleasant a working environment as possible.
  2. That oppressive behaviour:
    1. is generally unconscious, unintentional and a product of an oppressive society and environment
    2. is nonetheless unacceptable and should be prevented and challenged
    3. must not be responded to with more oppressive behaviour in response.
  3. That we should take collective responsibility for each other’s’ behaviour:
    1. We should ‘police’ ourselves democratically, collectively and equally. We should not rely on policing ‘from above’.
    2. It is not possible to legislate away oppressive behaviour and it is not desirable to give anyone the power to try to do so.
    3. We should act to prevent, challenge and rehabilitate but never to punish.
  4. That poor behaviour should be challenged constructively, respectfully and, where appropriate, confidentially.
  5. That we should be as inclusive as possible but that it is, nonetheless, sometimes necessary to exclude people from a space.

NCAFC resolves

  1. Replace the existing Safe Spaces Policy with the attached:
    1. Good Conduct Policy and
    2. Events Policy

Good Conduct Policy

  1. It is expected that participants at NCAFC events:
    1. respect the authority of the Chair and only challenge it through the appropriate structures
    2. treat one another with respect and courtesy, even when challenging their behaviour
    3. do not discriminate against anyone on the basis of race, sex, gender, age, sexuality, language, disability, asylum status, religious affiliation or any other arbitrary criteria.
    4. get explicit verbal consent before touching someone
    5. avoid assuming the opinions and identification of other participants
    6. act in a spirit of comradely co-operation
    7. do not consume alcohol or recreational drugs
    8. give one another the time and space to speak, using appropriate, understood and agreed hand signals where relevant
    9. are responsible not only for their own behaviour but for challenging poor behaviour in others
  2. NCAFC will ensure that events
    1. are hosted in venues as accessible as possible to the widest range of people
    2. include, where possible, a supervised quiet room
    3. are halted for an access break of no less than 10 minutes at the request of any one person, providing that there has not been one in the previous 90 minutes
  3. It is the collective responsibility of all NCAFC members to ensure that this Policy is followed.

Events Policy

  1. There shall be an Organising Committee for each NCAFC event.
  2. That in serious circumstances this Committee shall have the power to remove, by unanimous decision, an individual from the event.
  3. The committee shall exercise this power if allof the following criteria are met:
    1. A member of the NCAFC has requested that the individual(s) is removed from the event or set of events.
    2. There is good reason to suspect that the individual(s) poses a serious risk to the safety of other participants.
    3. There is good reason why this request cannot be dealt with democratically and publicly.
  4. This decision:
    1. is based on whether someone’s presence could reasonably pose a serious risk to participants’ safety
    2. should not be interpreted as a pronouncement of guilt or innocence, nor a recommendation to other organisations for how they should act.
    3. should be reported to the
      1. excluded individual(s)
      2. the member who made the request

7 – Creating Safer Spaces

Proposed by Defend Education Birmingham

NCAFC believes:

  1. That any campaign which concerns itself with education ought to be inclusive of all aspects of the struggle, specifically the struggles of those from marginalised groups
  2. That we can only ever create a ‘safer’ space, not an entirely safe space, and that this is an on-going process which ought to be regularly assessed and revised by a rotating working group
  3. That safer spaces exist in order to empower oppressed individuals and groups and to challenge oppressive behaviour within an organisation/group either by individuals or by groups involved in the campaign
  4. That we should take collective responsibility for each other’s’ behaviour:
    1. We should ‘police’ ourselves democratically, collectively and equally. We should not rely on policing ‘from above’.
    2. It is not possible to legislate away oppressive behaviour and it is not desirable to give anyone the power to try to do so.
    3. We should act to prevent, challenge and rehabilitate. Only through this approach can we build towards a more inclusive/unoppressive environment.
  5. That breaches of the safer spaces policy should be dealt with respectfully and constructively, with a sensitivity to aspects which should be kept confidential when necessary.
  6. That, in extreme circumstances, it may be necessary to exclude individuals or groups from the space.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To replace the existing Safe Space Policy with the attached Safer Spaces Policy and Accountability Processes

Safer Spaces Policy

It is the collective responsibility of all NCAFC members to ensure the following points are acted upon both during meetings/conferences/events and online on the NCAFC Loomio, Facebook page and website (where points are applicable):

  1. Participants should respect the facilitatory methods of the Chair and only challenge them through the appropriate structures
  2. Participants should not discriminate against anyone on the basis of race, sex, gender, age, sexuality, language, disability, asylum status, religious affiliation or any other structurally oppressive criteria.
  3. Everyone should get explicit verbal consent before touching someone, this is a part of respecting one another’s emotional and physical boundaries. Sexual harassment or sexual assault will lead to the perpetrator being banned from the premises and potential police involvement, if desired by the victim(s), will be fully supported. If you encounter any kind of harassment or assault please let us know, so that those responsible can be dealt with.
  4. We should avoid assuming the opinions and identification of other participants. Examples include, but are not limited to, assumptions regarding sex, sexuality, gender identity, preferred personal pronouns, neurotypicality, able-bodied status, socio-economic background, relationship model (monogamous, polyamorous etc.) and religious beliefs.
  5. Try to avoid speaking about obviously psychologically triggering topics (including not limited to: rape, sexual assault, self-harm, suicide, abuse etc.) in a public domain or, where possible, preclude this with a ‘trigger warning’. This can be simply a verbal warning of the content of the discussion, with adequate room for objection or avoidance for those who may find the topic triggering. In general we encourage open and frank discussion of issues related to oppression and ideology surrounding this. However, this should not be at the risk of alienating or causing others psychological distress.
  6. During meetings and other related non-social events refrain from consuming alcohol or recreational drugs
  7. We should give one another the time and space to speak, using appropriate, understood and agreed hand signals where relevant
  8. We are responsible not only for our own behaviour but for challenging poor behaviour in others
  9. We should always be aware of the social space we occupy, as well as the positions and privileges we may be conveying, including racial, class and gender privilege. If a member of a liberation group (keeping in mind that it is possible to be oppressive whilst identifying also identifying as a part of that oppressed group) requests that you change your use of language regarding topics about their liberation, please be respectful and change your use of language. If you are unsure as to the reason your language was inappropriate or offensive, please politely request that the complainant explain, if they feel they are able to or are willing to with the understanding that they in no way owe you this explanation. Failing this, remove yourself from the situation and take on personal research on the matter.
  10. During all meetings and events there should be access breaks for a minimum of ten minutes at least every 90 minutes and/or upon request.

Accountability processes

  1. NCAFC should elect a Safer Spaces working group/committee who are committed to ensuring the enacting of the Safer Spaces Policy both at events and in online organising spaces (e.g. the NCAFC Loomio , website and Facebook page).
    1. This working group will deal with any and all breaches of the Safer Spaces Policy, or complaints regarding it.
    2. The working group should be up for re-election at every conference at a minimum
    3. The working group should include at least one person from each liberation caucus (BME, Women’s, LGBTQ and Disabled) though other may join if they wish to
    4. The working group should be composed of at least eight people, if not more
    5. It shall be the duty of the working group to deal with complaints in a timely and sensitive manner
  2. During meetings if the Safer Spaces Policy is breached members on the working group should feel free to point it out and attempt to deal with it. Others may also come forward to inform the working group about Safer Spaces breaches. All complaints should be taken seriously.

Language/assumptions/biases complaints

  1. If oppressive language is used it should be challenged as soon as possible
  2. Generally, if people feel able, it should addressed immediately and called out, with appropriate explanations as to why it is oppressive and what language might be used instead
  3. If the offender apologises and changes their language immediately, and this is their first or one of their first offences, the matter need not be pursued any further
  4. If, however, this person refuses to change their language and/or is a repeat offender the matter should be taken up by the working group who will discuss further measures to take including:
  5. Issuing the offender with a formal warning (written or verbal) and explanation of how their use of language is offensive, reminding them of the Safer Spaces Policy
  6. Asking the offender to leave the group entirely if it is felt that they are not at all receptive, after the formal warning
  7. If it is felt this is a widespread or commonly misunderstood issue there should be discuss of a workshop to inform others on the issues surrounding this particular complaint

Oppressive behaviours

  1. If members behaviours are oppressive (e.g. constantly talking over others, turning up to meetings drunk, refusing to let others speak) this should be challenged immediately
  2. Generally, if people feel able, the behaviours should be called out by any members, in particular those who are part of the working group
  3. If the offender recognises their behaviour as oppressive and attempts to rectify this immediately, then the group should be supportive and continue to help them address these behaviours
  4. If, however, the offender refuses to engage with this process they should be:
  5. Asked to leave with immediate effect, that particular event, pending investigation
  6. Be under investigation i.e. the complainants and other witnesses should inform the working group of examples of their behaviour, including a statement from the offender, which should all be taken into account and final decision should be made regarding the offenders future involvement in NCAFC
  7. If the offender is found ‘guilty’ by the working group they should be asked to leave and to refrain from attending all future NCAFC events and banned from online spaces
  8. The working group may decide to put a time limit on these measures, or to only carry out some of them, depending on severity

Physical/Sexual harassment, assault and violation of boundaries

  1. If members or the working group witnesses or hears of any form of coercive, non-consenting physical or sexual assault they should encourage the victim to come forward and report it. Only if the victim is comfortable should this be taken to the official working group, they are under no obligation to report it.
  2. This matter should be dealt with by as few people as possible. One person on the working group should be involved directly with the complainant. They should remain anonymous to all other members of the working group to try and avoid bias. The case should be presented in a neutral, victim-led way.
  3. The case should be reviewed by the working group taking into consideration statement from both the victim and the accused, but with the understanding that this process should always depend on the victim’s wishes. It is NOT for the working group to decide whether or not the accused is guilt they ONLY decide if they consider them a threat to others and the victim’s safety.
  4. The working group may decide to take any or all of the following measures:
  5. Issue a warning to the offender that their behaviour has made others uncomfortable and that any further breach may lead to more serious action being taken
  6. Banning the offender from all future events and online forums
  7. Banning the offender for a fixed period of time
  8. Ensuring that the offender and the victim (and those affected) are not in the same spaces
  9. Supporting the victim in either legal action or restorative justice

 

7A – Amendment

Proposed by Ed Maltby

In “Safer Spaces Policy” point 5, delete: “Try to avoid speaking about obviously psychologically triggering topics (including not limited to: rape, sexual assault, self-harm, suicide, abuse etc.) in a public domain or, where possible, preclude this with a ‘trigger warning’. This can be simply a verbal warning of the content of the discussion, with adequate room for objection or avoidance for those who may find the topic triggering. “

In “Safer Spaces Policy” point 9, change “, please be respectful and change your use of language” to “, respectfully consider their request”.

Remit “Oppressive Behaviours” section to the NC for further discussion

 

8 – Creating a long term strategy for the free education movement

Proposed by Defend Education Birmingham

NCAFC notes:

  1. The amendments deadline, which has not yet passed

NCAFC believes:

  1. The past few months have been the product of an unprecedented level of work and strategy done by student activists – inside NCAFC and outside – and we need to keep this going and continue to develop a strategy that can keep the student movement going and beat the government.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To develop a strategy which includes:
    1. More effective raising and using of resources, looking towards paying national organisers
    2. The expansion and improvement of local groups
    3. The expansion and improvement of NCAFC
    4. More and better direct action
    5. More effective and clearer strategies for interacting with institutions – including NUS and formal politics
  2. To release a ‘ free education battleplan’ and to develop an organisational strategy based on (a) the resolves of this motion (after amendments), along with (b) other actions and strategies we pass at conference and (c) elements of informal discussion from conference incorporated by the NC.

 

8A – Amendment

Proposed by Luke Neal

ADD the following:

NCAFC Resolves

  1. To call for a public day-long conference to develop the political strategy of the campaign for free education, to be held in Manchester early next term. This should coincide with local direct action in which attendees can participate.
  2. To contact other pro- free education groups, and call on them to co-host this conference.

 

8B – Amendment

Proposed by an anonymous London NCAFC member

ADD the following:

NCAFC notes

  1. The existence of the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, which brings together unions (primarily through their bureaucracies), Labour left activists, and activists of the broader left.
  2. The existence of the Student Assembly Against Austerity, which claims to be “the student wing of the People’s Assembly” and in practice attempts to compete with NCAFC

NCAFC believes

  1. There is no reason why there needs to be more than one organisation on the student left campaigning for free education. There should be one democratic campaign for free education.
  2. The Student Assembly is in practice much narrower than the People’s Assembly: its key organisers are mostly in Socialist Action (we can have fun explaining who they are in the speeches) and have been in student politics for almost a decade. It also has far less democracy than the PA.
  3. Part of our key long-term strategy must involve relating to forces outside of the student movement – including trade unions and the broader anti-austerity movement – and we already do this in our solidarity with workers’ struggles and in our relationships and mutual affiliations with union branches.
  4. The People’s Assembly is, for all its flaws, a place where the broader movement comes together. However, the PA currently does this in a largely top-down way, by attempting to co-opt and use trade union general secretaries and leaders. We are for a different kind of anti-austerity movement, which is led from the bottom up by workers and activists – and which challenges and criticises bureaucracies.

NCAFC resolves

  1. To instruct the NC to affiliate the campaign to the People’s Assembly, on the basis that:
  • We will intervene actively in the PA, on the basis of rank and file, bottom-up organising and a genuinely democratic culture and politics
  • We will be adequately represented within the PA, on a basis at least equal to the Student Assembly
  • We will be openly critical of the PA leadership/majority and its strategies where we disagree with them
  1. To establish the point of principle that there should be one united organisation on the student left campaigning for free education.

 

8C – Amendment

Proposed by Deborah Hermanns

ADD the following:

NCAFC Believes:

  1. NCAFC has consistently played a role in facilitating long-term strategizing in the student movement, and this needs to continue. At present, this has gone as far as thinking months in advance: towards a national demonstration.
  2. We need to think not just months in advance, but years in advance. The fight for free education – of the kind which are campaigning for – will take many years to accomplish, and will require us to pull of actions and national co-ordinations that are far in excess of what we have managed since 2010.
  3. A national student strike – taken to mean a truly mass wave of direct action, protest and civil disobedience – would give us the focus for a new wave of student struggle. Such events do not happen by accident or by genius of timing: they happen because organisations like ours decide on a strategy and make them happen.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To begin building for a student strike – with local demonstrations and blockades –in the calendar year of 2016.

8D – Amendment

Proposed by Deborah Hermanns

ADD the following:

NCAFC believes

  1. We have spent the past 9 months talking in various ways about what free education “really means” and “how it can be achieved”.
  2. We should make this project more intellectually serious.
  3. We should write it down.

NCAFC revolves

  1. We will produce a proper document about free education over the next few months, with contributions from a wide range of activists, academics and thinkers. This document should represent the breadth and depth of the movement we are building, including HE and FE, etc.
  2. We will launch this document in March 2015.

 

8E – Amendment

Proposed by Deborah Hermanns

ADD the following:

NCAFC notes

  1. Last weekend (6th December) saw a series of local marches and actions on a weekend day, in Brighton, London, Bath, Hastings and Chichester.

NCAFC believes

  1. These local marches were mostly small. However, they were successful in their basic task: bringing in local communities and workers. This task is not easy, and it will not be short – but it is absolutely central to making the campaign for free education successful.

NCAFC resolves

  1. To continue to call local marches and similar actions on weekend days in the new term.

 

8F – Amendment

Proposed by Deborah Hermanns

ADD the following:

NCAFC notes

  1. There are loads of student unions
  1. These unions are physical spaces
  2. We often do lots of occupying campuses while abandoning SUs to a commericialised tat

NCAFC believes

  1. SUs should be political spaces – physically, and not just in policy and on paper
  2. We should do a day of action targeted at unions – in sympathetic unions this could be done by or with sabbatical officers, and in crap ones we could occupy them

NCAFC resolves

  1. To call a day of action for a weekday in late January based around (a) using the space of student unions to build free education campaigns and (b) making a point about the depoliticisation and commercialisation of student unions.

 

8G – Amendment: Grassroots workers’ struggles

Proposed by Ben Towse

ADD the following:

NCAFC Believes:

  1. Support for workers’ rights and a politics of class struggle have been consistent parts of NCAFC and should continue to be.
  2. Any effort to win free education must be fundamentally intertwined with education workers’ struggles.
  3. Like the NUS, workers’ unions in education such as the UCU and Unison are bureaucratised.
  4. Left-wing organising within these unions (for instance, by groups like the UCU Left) has often been too focussed on winning posts in the union structures and has done too little to organise the kind of radical democratic rank-and-file campaigns that would be needed to transform those unions, win serious gains for workers, and transform education.
  5. Casualised academic workers (many of whom are students, e.g. teaching assistants) have recently been involved in building local campaigns with a more grassroots attitude (most prominently the SOAS Fractionals). Some of these workers, including some NCAFC activists, are beginning to network and are now planning a conference focussed on such struggles for the new year (“FACE: Fighting Against Casualisation in Education”).
  6. From a student perspective, solidarity with workers has sometimes been used to mean uncritical support for the official structures of the labour movement and their leaders, even when those leaders are selling out workers. We should not hesitate to “take sides” when necessary within the labour movement – for those advocating the kind of grassroots democracy and radical action NCAFC promotes in the student movement, against the bureaucracy.

NCAFC Resolves:

  1. To support and help promote the FACE conference.
  2. To reach out and attempt to build strong links of mutual solidarity with this emerging tendency and any similar ones.
  3. To support NCAFC members involving themselves in the labour movement in favour of radical, grassroots, class-struggle politics.
  4. To encourage our local groups and activists to help build and support local campaigns of this type.
  5. To incorporate practical solidarity and coordination with workers and their campaigns, along the lines set out above, into our strategy going forward.

 

9 – Proposal for a National Demonstration in Birmingham

Proposed by Workers’ Liberty

Next term the student movement will need to organise more action to keep free education (as well as opposition to cuts and privatisation, opposition to victimisations and anti-democratic crackdowns, and solidarity with workers in struggle) on the agenda. This will mostly be local action but it would also be good to have another national focus for the movement.

This is a proposal to hold a national demonstration in Birmingham sometime in the second term. Why?

  1. It would be good to demonstrate somewhere other than London.
  2. There is an important activist group in Birmingham, Defend Education, which has many of its own issues to highlight, needs support and can build effectively locally.
  3. The Labour Party’s Higher Education spokesperson, Liam Byrne, is a Birmingham MP, and is busy selling out even the crap 6k fees promise Ed Miliband made to students. We should take the demonstration to his constituency and embarrass him and Labour.

A national demonstration for free education in Birmingham, with has as one element condemning Labour’s repeated sell outs and wholesale capitulation to neo-liberalism and demanding it changes it policy to free education, would be a good thing to do.

We could also get trade unions locally and nationally to support and sponsor the demonstration – starting with local support and then demanding national support.

Clearly we are not going to get 10,000 students to Birmingham in February, but we can get a very substantial number if we start organising now. We should seek to get student unions and activist groups to organise transport.

NCAFC should work with BDE on this and call for wider support.

10 – International question

NCAFC believes:

  1. That is a group primarily concerned with fighting against fees and cuts within higher and further education
  2. NCAFC should be composed of a broad coalition of groups with the aim of achieving the aforementioned aims
  3. Following this, NCAFC should avoid making statements around international matters not directly related to education

NCAFC resolves to:

  1. Avoid making statements around international matters not directly related to education

11 – Organising Regional Assemblies

Proposed by Defend Education Birmingham

NCAFC notes:

  1. That the number of active local campus anti-cuts/free education groups has increased in the past few months

NCAFC believes:

  1. That helping these groups to co-ordinate regional assemblies could lead to greater links between activists in a similar localities, enable them to discuss issues relevant to their area, organise joint direction actions and pass on skills and knowledge between different activists and groups
  2. That these regional groups are potentially in a better position to help start up activist groups on nearby campuses than the National Committee

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To work with established anti-cuts/free education groups to work out sensible regional groupings
  2. To work with these groups to set up and publicise regional assemblies in the spring term where different groups and activists for a similar area can come together
  3. That these regional assemblies shall be autonomous from NCAFC but they may decide to establish themselves as a “Region” and thus secure a place on the National Committee. They may decide their own policy, hold their own elections and organise their own actions if they so choose

 

12 – Amendment to the Constitution: Having two democratic conferences per year

Proposed by Defend Education Birmingham

NCAFC notes:

  1. At present, we only have one formal democratic conference per year (with some interim liberation caucuses in summer on an ad hoc basis).
  2. There is a high turnover in student activism: being an NC member in two academic years may lead to some people dropping out half way through their term.
  3. NCAFC has held 1 to 2 summer events every year since 2011.

NCAFC conference believes:

  1. We have had a historic problem with NC members becoming inactive following the end of an academic year. It does not make sense for some activists to be bound to a role which they cannot fulfil. It makes even less sense for activists not to run for NC because they are worried they would not continue in the role satisfactorily
  2. Ideally, we would re-elect the NC every six months. However, doing this at present would mean either electing the NC from an unreliably attended conference or expending a large part of NCAFC’s organisational energies into building another conference.
  3. We should hold a Summer Conference every year – which could be combined with summer training – which:
    1. Takes place in June, July, August or September
    2. Allows NC members who are about to become inactive to stand down, and elect replacements
    3. Discusses and passes policy and strategy proposals for the summer/autumn term
    4. Does not amend the constitution
    5. Does not re-elect the whole NC

NCAFC conference resolves:

  1. To amend the constitution as follows:

In Section 4, REPLACE all relevant mentions of ‘conference’ with ‘annual conference’
DELETE Bullet point 2 in 4.A.1: “There shall be at least one conference per academic year”, and REPLACE “There shall be at least one annual conference per year and one Summer Conference per year, as laid out below”.
ADD 4.A.6:

“In the months of June, July, August or September, NCAFC will hold a summer conference. This can be combined with another event (such as a training or gathering event) and will have the power to:

  • Discuss and approve strategies for the coming months through a motions process
  • Fill vacant or inactive posts on the National Committee, including through caucuses

Before the Summer Conference, NC members who are currently or are planning to become inactive in student activism are encouraged to resign so that their place can be refilled at the conference.”

 

Nominations received for NCAFC endorsements in NUS elections

nus-conferenceAt our National Conference 12-14 December, we will debate and decide on plans for where to take our movement next. NCAFC’s members will also select candidates to endorse for the Presidency and Vice-Presidencies of the National Union of Students. We have received the following nominations, and we encourage members to debate them on the members’ webforum in the run-up to the conference.

These nominations should NOT be confused with nominations for NCAFC’s own national committee. You can nominate yourself for NCAFC NC at conference.

The actual final deadline for the NUS full time officer positions is in January, and we will consider if and how to fill vacant positions before then. Please remember register to attend the conference; only NCAFC members will be allowed to vote in the selection process.

President

  • Beth Redmond
  • Deborah Hermanns

VP Higher Education

  • Hattie Craig

VP Further Education

  • No nominations received

VP Society & Citizenship

  • Omar Raii
  • Dario Celaschi

VP Union Development

  • Hannah Sketchley
  • Barnaby Raine

VP Welfare

  • No nominations received

President

Beth Redmond

I would like the endorsement of NCAFC for NUS president.

I have been on the national committee of the NCAFC since 2012 and am currently a student at City and Islington College, London. Along with several others involved in NCAFC, I have been a central organiser for the free education demo on November 19, and am continuing to coordinate action on campuses across the country.

I am a class-struggle socialist feminist committed to students standing in struggle alongside workers in order to fundamentally change the world. I’m a member of the socialist organisation Workers’ Liberty.

I would like to start by saying that, since organising the national demonstration for free education, my disillusionment with the NUS has grown exponentially. We managed to do their job on a shoestring budget, and despite their best efforts to undermine us, we managed to do it incredibly successfully. Where SUs pulled coaches because the leadership of NUS persuaded them to, activists carried on organising and still managed to bring contingents on the demo. In the face of their scabbing and obsession with bureaucracy, we managed to mobilise 10 000 students on the streets of London, marching for free education.

But a lot of the momentum for the demonstration was brought about by NUS conference in the first place. A lot of the activists I’ve met this year got involved because of NUS, and when the hypocrisy and blatant disregard for grassroots activism was exposed, lots of these people stuck around, publicly criticised NUS and are continuing to organise now.

We need to make a hard, radical intervention to NUS conference to draw more of those people in towards us. It is a wasted opportunity to have that many students in one room and not tell as many of them about our politics as possible – and standing in an FTO election is an efficient way of doing so.

The pressure we’ve been putting on NUS from the outside is working – the leadership have released statements in favour of free education in the last month, something which they argued against at this year’s NUS conference. But we can push them even further both by continuing that work, and by forcing the hard debates on the leadership as part of our intervention.

We need to make NUS talk about more radical demands; we need to be organising mass occupations and strikes, not roadmaps and constant petitions.

We need to challenge the leadership when they undemocratically overturn decisions made both by conference and at national executive meetings, and then hold them to account for the entirety of the year.

There are two other things I want to make central to both my and NCAFC’s campaigns: women’s liberation and migrants’ rights.

Cuts being made by the government to university services and the long-lasting effects of massive tuition fees are disproportionately affecting women, and NUS could be doing a lot more about it than a campaign to get more women in leadership. We won’t get socialism without women’s liberation, and we won’t get women’s liberation without socialism.

The government are also attacking migrants; tuition fees for international students are often uncapped and can be increased at the will of university management, whilst the strict visa and immigration laws make it harder for international students to even protest about such things, which should be their right.

NUS is not the be all and end all of the student movement, I have learnt that first hand this year. But as a revolutionary socialist, I see it as my responsibility to talk to as many people about revolutionary socialism as possible, and if I meet a small handful of people who are interested in the activism that NCAFC coordinates then this candidacy will have been successful.

Deborah Hermanns

In the student movement and in the left in general there are many important debates on democracy, liberation, workers’ struggles, capitalism, international issues and so much more. But every election is also about a core, central question. In the context of the past 9 months, the important narrative that we have to tell at this year’s NUS conference is about the kind of free education we want and what we will need to do to get it.

Especially around the national demonstration this autumn, there has been a wide discussion among students surrounding education and particularly, what free education would look like. There is a growing consensus that what we need is a complete overhaul of the system which includes the demand for no tuition fees and cancellation of all debt, but also goes much further than that. It is the idea that we need to fundamentally change who decides what, how and when we learn; that we need to look at the very foundations of how education and society are structured; and that in order to make education a public good we need to liberate it.

The passing of free education policy at last year’s conference shifted the terms of the debate in the bureaucracy. The dividing lines in NUS are no longer over who supports free education “in principle” – it is about the difference between words and deeds. The right now exercise their power through risk assessment exercises and a paralysing political culture which promotes bureaucracy and managerialism and which misuses liberation politics to cover its tracks. Among many otherwise leftwing sabbatical officers a related version of this culture persists, in cliquism and a distrust of organisation.

These problems are not just about a particular political tendency in the leadership: they have become so ingrained in student unionism that they are not just going to go away. Additionally it is important to recognise that it isn’t just a matter of who gets elected, but also of the structures that they find in place. That is why to win free education we must not look towards the NUS but instead focus on campus-by-campus organising.

Therefore our intervention in the NUS must be the expression of our movement in the streets, not a separate strategy.  We need a free education movement to be built on a grassroots level: it needs to be democratic, focused on direct action and follow a long-term strategy- thinking months and years, not days and weeks, ahead. It needs to consist of campus activist groups all over the country, of national organisations such as the NCAFC connecting those groups and it needs to be based on alliances between school, FE and HE students, between teachers, lecturers, parents and the wider community. Education affects everyone, and the number one basis for a successful movement has to be to widen the struggle. Elected student representatives, such as the NUS president, need to be a part of this movement and must be accountable to it, on a local level to an activist group and on a national level (in my case) to NCAFC. Crucially, they should not be the ones dictating it.

That is why I believe to be the right candidate for this position. The majority of my time in the student movement has not been spent in elected positions but instead has been dominated by my involvement in my local activist group Defend Education Birmingham and recently the National Campaign Against Fees And Cuts. In the last year I have spent more time in occupations than in lectures, have organised two national demonstrations and travelled around the country meeting different activist groups. And I have had to learn first hand what being betrayed by your own union means, when I was unlawfully arrested in January 2014, suspended from my studies and consequently scabbed on by my union.

Running for NUS has to be about more than denouncing the NUS leadership, or stating a more leftwing set of general politics to a large hall of people. It has to be about setting out a strategy for winning free education, exposing the contradictions in the structures themselves, and pushing a message which resonates outside of that hall. Primarily, that narrative is about local activist groups and national groups that connect them: we are not only at the heart of the free education movement but also need to be its driving force. That is why I want to run.

VP Higher Education

Hattie Craig

As I am writing this statement, I am sitting in the occupation at the University of Warwick where I have been for the last three days. Around this time last year, when I was Vice President Education at the University of Birmingham, I was also sitting in an occupation. And this time next year, if you nominate me to be the NCAFC candidate for Vice President Higher Education, and I happen to be elected, I hope that I will once again be sitting in an occupation.

Over the last few months, we have witnessed something incredible. We have gone from a position where free education was a contentious issue amongst parts of the student movement to one where it has become the accepted central demand. NCAFC and so many of the people involved in this conference have been integral to winning this battle. Whilst the debate on free education is certainly not over, the discussion within the movement has moved on: it is not whether or not we want free education, but what do we mean when say free education and how are we going to get it.

When we say free education, we should not simply mean the abolition of tuition fees, although this is of course a part of it. I want education which is free for everyone, including post-graduates, international students and people on their second, third, fourth degree. I want education which is free from the influence of private capital and the dictates of the market to set the agenda of what we research and learn. I want education which is free from commodification, where it is understood to be an experience, a process, a community and not a thing which can be bought and sold. I want education which is free from management and is democratically controlled by students, academics and support staff. I want education which is free from elitism, which any person can access and which comes with full living grants. And I want education which is free to be critical, to offer the radical alternative to capitalism that we need.

I have no faith in the NUS’ “roadmap to free education”. Toni Pearce said in her first blog post on the subject, that students should sit down with their Vice Chancellor and convince them of free education. This demonstrates just how out of touch the NUS and the officers within it are. Most students do not have that kind of access to their senior management team and even if they did, do they honestly believe that the reason why senior managers do not support free education is because they have not heard the arguments for it before?

What we need is a battleplan. The bosses in universities and the government will not give us the power and democratic control we are asking for unless we force them into it.The NUS should be calling national demonstrations, waves of occupations, student strikes, offering training and support to activists who want to take part in direct action, be at the forefront of opposing all repression and taking part in the movement, standing side by side with students in the streets. We need full time officers who have the guts to call for the action necessary to bring the government to their knees and will practice what they preach: putting themselves on the front line with student activists instead of leaving it to others to put their careers, futures and bodies in dangers.

I would be that full time officer. My record as a sabb at Birmingham shows that I am not afraid to call for direct action and stand alongside students, even in the face of being threatened with £25,000 in legal costs by my university, disciplinary action by my own students’ union, and suspension for my involvement. I will not say we should have days of action then distance myself when students go ahead and take properly radical action. I will not just call for free education in my blog, I will call for it on the streets with tens of thousands of others. I will be in the occupations, in the police stations, in the courts with you every step of the way until we win free education.

VP Society & Citizenship

Omar Raii

I’m asking for NCAFC’s nomination to run for NUS Vice-President Society & Citizenship. I’m running because I think that this role, and all NUS Full-Time Officer roles in general, need to be conceived of very differently than has been the case in the past.

An activist officer shouldn’t spend their time cosying up to other officers and ducking fights over important issues to stay popular with the bureaucracy. They should be in constant contact with the activists on campuses that need to be represented in NUS, supporting their struggles and helping them to cohere those battles into a nationwide fight against the government. The way for NUS to change education and change society is not by trying to impress university managers, quangos and the government with shiny presentations, but by being a radical, combative mass organisation that fights to force them to concede to our demands.

I am a revolutionary socialist and as such I will stand on a platform that shows solidarity and full support for workers’ struggles on our campuses and beyond. I am irrevocably opposed to interference by the police and the surveillance state into our campuses. This means cops should not be allowed on our campuses without express permission from students, and the government’s ridiculous anti-democratic bill (which allows the Home Office to order universities to ban a speaker from a campus if the government doesn’t like them) should be repealed immediately.

Education should be free and this means not only an abolition of undergraduate tuition fees but also of postgrad fees and a full living grant for all students, including international students who have as much right to study here as anyone else and as such should be treated the same.

To stop climate change, we need to build on and go beyond fossil fuel divestment campaigns. NUS should support direct action, and workers’ organising to take control and change their industries, to save the environment.

Across the board, the student movement needs tactics that can beat austerity. To save the NHS, youth centres, women’s services and more, we need more than slick presentations from NUS officers. We need to unionise student workers, support strikes, and engage in mass direct action.

I am a member of Workers’ Liberty and NCAFC and I’ve been an activist in my local group, UCL Defend Education. As a sabbatical officer at UCL, I’ve remained accountable to campus activists and supported them.

Dario Celaschi

Being the Movement for Free, Inclusive and Accessible Education and Society

Activism in all its forms, whether it’s direct action in the streets and hallways of our institutions, community organising against fascists and cuts or mobilising the student vote at the ballot box, is what needs to be championed by the society and citizenship zone.

In the fight for free education  and a fairer society we need the society and citizenship zone to be relevant to all students and an NUS which isn’t just holding a mandate but changes its own direction to support activists, rather than shut them out of the movement as it has in the past.

Since 2010 we’ve seen an NUS that concentrates on halting cuts rather than stopping them, that is more concerned about personal career development than real direct action by students. On Nov 19th ’14 we saw thousands of students mobilise in the fight for free education on the streets of London.

Since then we have seen local action on campuses with occupations, walk-outs and local demos, and local activist groups bringing the fight for free education to the top of the agenda in their institutions. We still see no support from the NUS leadership for those who were brutally assaulted and arrested on Nov 19; instead we have a leadership that would rather aide the police when NUS HQ is stickered by activists.

We need to have inclusive education. If we are to truly be a movement committed to liberation we need to fight for a free education that is inclusive of all groups. We need curricula and degree programmes that don’t just tell the story of the hegemonic institution but teach us about activist struggles and equip students to build activism in our local areas and nationally.

We need accessible education. Despite pitiful attempts from institutions to widen participation, liberation groups and the working classes are still isolated from accessing education. The black attainment gap is growing, the amount of working class applicants is falling and the list just goes on and on. NUS needs to be fighting for real accessible education that doesn’t benefit those who are already privileged in society and fights for universal student grants.

ARAF- Creating an Anti-fascist Movement

We can’t just fight racists and fascists at the ballot box, we need to build a student movement that fights fascism in all its forms. NUS needs to be a central hub for activism where activists build what the NUS stands for, rather than the NUS attempting to dictate what activists should stand for.

The society and citizenship zone is the zone in which we need to build on the intersectional commitment to liberation that the student movement champions. The emancipation of oppressed groups won’t be won without us fighting together. As a disabled Jewish Trans*person I know the importance of creating an anti-fascist movement.

In the past year we’ve seen a significant rise in hate crime; namely anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, with fascists taking hold of our campuses from UKIP to National Action. Whatever victories they may make on Election Day need to be counteracted by a strong united front of both students and workers ready to fight for the rights of the many and not the few. NUS needs to be a movement that will say to the fascist movement: not on our campuses or on our streets, not now, not ever.

Further Education- Unlocking the Movement in FE

During my time in FE NUS became ever more irrelevant to my students. Whilst President of my FE union, I saw activism grow in all its forms from our students fighting the EDL when they came to ‘March for England’, to lobbying the local council to introduce Gender Neutral Toilets. The society and citizenship zone needs to be the place to build these activists to fight for free education, against climate change and to empower their communities.

FE is seen as a side note when it comes to building the movement and seen as a sector where student services have taken the power away from FE SU’s. We need to counter this narrative and support those activists struggling on their campus to build their SU and to fight the fights we need to win.

The majority of the students who are represented by the NUS study within FE, and the vast majority of them are part-time and mature students. In the fight for free education and a fairer society we need to engage with FE and support students to call for the removal of all fees and hidden course costs. With so many of those in FE coming from deprived working class backgrounds we need to win universal student grants, the provision of DSA in FE and a focus on the vocational benefits of studying there.

VP Union Development

Hannah Sketchley

I am running for the position of Vice President Union Development at NUS National Conference.  This almost certainly has a reputation as the position of the ultra-bureaucrat and the most inward-facing of the NUS roles, but luckily I am both incredibly boring and a big fan of student unionism.

I am currently the Democracy & Communications Officer at UCL Union, one of the well-resourced Unions in the country, as well as one of the ones with the biggest full time officer teams. This means that I spend a lot of my life doing incredibly dull admin work and fighting against things that are politically bad in the Trustee Board, when I’d much rather be talking to people and convincing them of my political ideas (although I try and do a fair bit of that too).   I came to uni in 2010 and fell into occupying things quite early on, but it’s taken a while for my politics to firm up – I think that political education is definitely something we ought to be encouraging of our activists and in our student unions.

I am a revolutionary socialist feminist, and if that just looks like a string of words then this is what it actually means to me: I think class plays a major role in oppression, and that capitalism is a system based on inequalities, and it feeds off keeping society’s most marginalised on the edges.  We can only liberate ourselves from this by organising together in our workplaces and communities.  We can’t achieve what we want by asking nicely, we will have to take it – that’s where the revolutionary bit comes in.

I also spent the last couple of months running around London & the country organising the national demo, and it really showed me what a bad state student unions are in.  This was especially apparent when ringing round and getting SU’s to come to the demo, even before the NUS pulled out – we had countless instances of jazzy hold music being played, but no direction to officers whose job titles sounded anywhere near like they’d have a mandate to run a large campaign. This is a problem inherent in student unionism; we present our unions as businesses and our officers as colleagues, rather than those with political agency.

The thing is, student unionism is really quite important, from playing sports to organising demos, and it’s being gently crushed by apathy and charity law.  I won’t bore everyone reading by going into why I think charitable incorporation was a terrible thing for student unionism, and neither will I cite the old clichés about student unions being politically important because they bought about the fall of Apartheid South Africa – although that bit is probably a highlight.  What I will say is this: student unionism is dying.  Our institutions do not want their members to be able to organise against them in a democratic and representative manner – and why should they? – so they will do their best to steal the standard but important things we do well, like academic representation, sports programmes and cheap entertainment – and to demolish the things we do excellently that are counter to their interests.  This is nothing less than a microcosm of class war being carried out against us on our own campuses, and it has to be the job of grassroots activists to stop it happening.

The democratic, campaigning and functional student union is essential to the fight for the democratic university. Real democracy in our student unions has to come from the ground up, and we have to look to building Unions in places where there are none, in schools and colleges, with structures which suit the places they are in and the local struggles that they face.  The fundamental right to democratic representation is something which, with the impending doom of another Education Act on its way, is something which is going to become a massive battleground for the student movement in the immediate future. We can never lose sight of the fact that universities do not want us to exist in any meaningful way, and they will use the brutal tactics of state repression, and the bureaucratic plays of government, to get their way.  We have to get ours, and we can only do that if we convince people of what unions are for. The territory of the student union is our right, and we have to take it back from bureaucrats and the whims of unelected trustees and managers, and not just through electoralism, but through direct action and campaigning.

Barnaby Raine

NUS SHOULD SERVE THE STUDENT MOVEMENT, NOT STIFLE IT

What’s wrong with the status quo?

Currently, the most prominent Union Development campaign is ‘SU34’, marking the 20-year anniversary of the disastrous 1994 Education Act by launching a ‘Big Conversation’, complete with lobbying guides, a PR toolkit and a questionnaire about the effectiveness of student unions. Meanwhile, the Vice-President Union Development did nothing to stop ULU, a successful student union, being shut down.

I am running to fight that right-wing bureaucratic culture. I want to use the election period to contact as many delegates to NUS conference as possible, talking to them to persuade them of NCAFC’s politics.

If elected, there are three big things I will focus on:

Building grassroots student activism

An effective student movement needs much more than a few left-wingers passing good policy on the NUS NEC. It needs lively, democratic campaigns on every campus.

  • Make NUS resources available for the goal of developing an activist group on every HE campus and in every FE college, taking advice from successful groups like Birmingham Defend Education and UCL Defend Education about how to build.
  • Use NUS resources to help train activists within those groups. Start by updating and reprinting NUS’s 1973 Direct Action Briefing on how to run an occupation.
  • Scrap ‘Lead and Change’ and replace it with proper activist training for SU officers, administered by actual activists not David Miliband’s staff and geared towards building activist campus groups, not just lobbying vice-chancellors.

Replacing a bureaucratic NUS with a campaigning NUS

As VP, I will fight inside NUS to ensure it adopts good politics. Union Development doesn’t mean questionnaires and flashy policy documents, it means making NUS an activist union.

  • Campaign for the Greek and Latin American model where police are banned from entering campuses. Start by implementing the legal fund for victimised activists passed by NUS conference but never implemented by the bureaucracy.
  • Make NUS resources available to set up tenants’ unions on campuses, and provide briefings on how to launch rent strikes, as part of a campaign modelled on NUS Scotland’s Living Rent Campaign.
  • NUS should give financial and principled support to student/worker solidarity campaigns, encouraging students to get involved in the 3Cosas campaign and supporting and publicising their speaking tours and fundraisers, for example.
  • Work with trade unions to unionise student workers.
  • Campaign for student union democracy, including a campaign to abolish trustee boards

Making liberation issues central to Union Development

The left should both fight the manipulation of liberation politics by the right and show in practice that opposition to sexism, racism, ableism, homophobia and transphobia is crucial to our vision of social transformation.

  • Push to introduce full-time liberation officers in every SU.
  • Ensure proper funding for liberation campaigns inside NUS.
  • Work with the International Students Officer to mobilise international students as part of a campaign against racist attacks on migrants, and student migrants in particular.

My experience

Trustee, Oxford University Student Union – I have seen how sabbatical officers and unelected external trustees stifle student democracy. I fought successfully against the rest of the trustee board’s attempt to follow NUS in pulling support from the free education demo.

Education activist – I helped set up Support Our Staff during last year’s UCU strikes, mobilising students on picket lines and for a demonstration which ended in a brief occupation of Oxford’s main academic building. I then helped set up the Oxford Activist Network, organising numerous campaigns including a protest against Nick Clegg’s visit to our campus. This term, I helped organise a successful campaign for my SU to adopt free education policy, and organised around the demo, including banner making and organising a full coach for students to attend on the day.

Socialist campaigner – I have been active on a range of other issues, from setting up a Jews for Justice in Palestine group on my campus, to organising against UKIP, to campaigning against the cover-up of rape allegations by the Oxford Union and organising, with others, a conference on ‘Feminism in Theory and Action’.

By the end of my year as NUS VP UD, ideally I would like to have abolished the state, class and capital. I will settle for free education as a compromise.

I am obviously happy to add different ideas after discussions with others in NCAFC – I want to have an NCAFC manifesto, not just a personal one.

I am also planning on standing for the Block of 15 on the NUS NEC, to use the position to promote NCAFC’s work and politics throughout the year. The publicity that comes from standing for this position should help to win a place on the NEC.

Free education protests hit town centres across the UK

10805810_10152416127555706_1153407708581174735_nContact: 07821731481, 07850652962, 07989235178, 07891714146, 07749263622

Today saw protests across towns and cities for free education – including London, Birmingham, Hastings, Chichester and Bath. The largest demonstration took place in Brighton where many hundreds of activists and residents marched through town.

The day of action, initiated by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, was designed to bring together not just students but families, workers and wider communities.

Warwick University is still occupied.

 

Warwick University reoccupied as free education action continue nationwide

Contact: 07821731481, 07850652962, 07989235178, 07891714146, 07749263622

  • #copsoffcampus protest draws 1000 activists from across the UK
  • Solidarity actions in four cities, including occupations
  • Conference Centre occupied by hundreds of activists
  • Local protests planned for Saturday
  • Amnesty International expresses “concern”

Free education protests have continued nationwide today, and more are expected across the country on Saturday, including in Birmingham, London and Brighton.

At around five o’clock today Warwick University was re-occupied by hundreds of activists from across the UK at the end of a #copsoffcampus demonstration. Over 1000 students attended the protest, which was called in response to the violent eviction of an occupation yesterday by police, who brandished tasers and used CS Spray.

Activists have now occupied the Chancellor’s Suite of the Rootes Building Conference Centre, where a Vice Chancellor’s dinner was due to be held tonight. It has been evacuated and shut down entirely by university management.

Warwick Free Education activist Callum Cant said: “Despite the brutal policing yesterday, we are not intimidated.  We can clearly see from the response today that the student movement is behind us and will not tolerate attacks on their fellow students.”

Deborah Hermanns, from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, said: “We are witnessing the growth of a major new movement for free education on campuses and in the streets. This Saturday’s protests will bring communities and workers into that campaign. The struggle for democratic and accessible education – and against police brutality – is not just a student issue, it is for everyone.”

Omar Raii, from UCL Defend Education, said: “Given the events this week in Warwick, students in Britain are realising that the true role of the police is to crush dissent and support the forces of injustice.  The student movement has to make #copsoffcampus one of its key demands.  Universities call the police on us because their interests are counterposed to ours and they want to shut down dissent.  We cannot win free education until we have freed our campuses.”

 

PRESS RELEASE: Free education action nationwide as police brutally evict Warwick occupation

Photos at bottom of post.

Contact: 07821731481 (NCAFC number, now at Warwick), 07833446627  (local Warwick activist), 07989235178 (London), 07891714146 (London)

  • Direct action on 20 campuses and 6 occupations nationwide, with more to come, on same day that autumn statement read out in parliament.
  • Students brutally evicted by police in Warwick.
  • London students occupy Universities UK for the afternoon.
  • For more, including photos, see our live blog of the day.

Thousands of students all over the UK from around 20 campuses have taken part in a day of action for free education. There are occupations on-going in the University of Manchester, the University of Lancaster and the University of Sheffield. Universities UK was occupied for around three hours this afternoon by activists from UCL and SOAS, whilst Kings College London foyer was occupied this afternoon.

Police brutally evicted a sit-in at Warwick University Senate House. The sit-in followed a rally outside. Students made themselves at home in the ground floor of the building to discuss free education and what a free university would look like. They were interrupted at around 17:10 by police, including riot police, who entered the occupation and along with university security conducted a combined assault on the students, who had linked arms.

CS gas was used on at least 10 protesters, and tasers were drawn.  Protesters claimed they were dragged out of the building by their hair, while at least 3 were arrested. Police, some of them with dogs, then chased some students across campus, and others were assaulted by security. Use of CS spray and tasers are, to NCAFC’s knowledge, unprecedented in campus protest situation.

Callum Cant, from Warwick For Free Education, said: “This sort of police escalation is unprecedented for small and very peaceful campus sit-ins. We are all disgusted at this heavy handed use of the police and ask the University to publicly condemn such an attack on its students.”

Beth Redmond, from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, said: “The widespread action today has shown that the movement for free education has really kicked off. We expect the local days of action on Saturday to be even bigger and we will not be scared off by police and university repression.”

Hannah Sketchley, from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, said: “Since the #copsoffcampus movement last year, we have seen growing police repression and brutality as a response to student activism. This can mean only one thing: those at the top are scared of the student movement, because they have seen what students can achieve worldwide and their interests lay repressing dissent.”

NOTES:

  1. Universities UK is a lobbying organisation which represents University Chancellors and Vice Chancellors nationwide and was key in lobbying for higher fees in 2010.
  2. The NCAFC calls for free education to be funded taxing the rich and big business. We are a democratic coalition which has existed since 2010.
  3. The #copsoffcampus movement in December 2013 demanded the banning of police from all university campuses and was a response to the violent eviction of an occupation of the University of London management offices and continued repression and victimisation of protest organisers. It saw three days of protest in Bloomsbury and culminated in 43 arrests.

 

 

Police officer reaches for CS spray at Warwick

Police officer reaches for CS spray at Warwick

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Occupation at Lancaster University

Occupation at Lancaster University

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Students occupy Universities UK

Students occupy Universities UK

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Banner drop at Cambridge

Banner drop at Cambridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Action at University of East Anglia

Action at University of East Anglia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Students protesting in Sussex

Students protesting in Sussex

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manchester University occupied

Manchester University occupied

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Banner from inside Sheffield University occupation

Banner from inside Sheffield University occupation

 

 

LIVE BLOG: NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION

21:45: GOOD NIGHT! PRESS COVERAGE AND ROUNDUP FOR THE DAY OF ACTION

You can see our press release here.

Meanwhile, Warwick Free Education can be found here, and their protest tomorrow here.

And to keep in touch with the campuses still in occupation, check out Sheffield and Lancaster.

Expect more to come in the coming days, especially this Saturday!

21:31PM: SHEFFIELD STILL GOING STRONG

Sheffield occupation is still going strong.

“Staying in overnight! More events tomorrow, so stay tuned. The most valuable contribution is for people to come along and take part. Solidarity with all others that have taken part in fighting for a free and fair education today.”

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21:29PM: ARRESTEE SUPPORT IN COVENTRY

 

19:21PM: VIDEOS OF WARWICK POLICE VIOLENCE

Videos have been online for over an hour now and have spread around the internet very quickly.

 

19:12PM: WARWICK FREE EDUCATION STATEMENT AND BLOGPOST

Warwick University Free Education have put something out about today’s protests. You can read it in full here.

Here’s an extract:

At the peaceful sit-in at the bottom floor of senate house police were called and reacted with extreme, disproportionate and unprovoked violence. Several police cars turned up and a police riot van as well as a police dog. We formed a human chain but they broke through using CS spray (active agent in tear gas) on many activists at close quarters, a taser gun was held up and threatened, it was also suspected to be used. Activists were punched, pushed onto the floor, dragged, rammed by their throat into the wall and kneed in the face. We were staging a peaceful protest and it was totally unprecedented; we were sitting in a circle talking in university space. At least 20 students were assaulted by university security and police. Three arrests were made, please do arrestee support if you would so wish. They have been taken to Coventry central police station. THIS IS OUR UNIVERSITY! COPS OFF CAMPUS!

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19:11PM: NCAFC PRESS RELEASE

Read it in full here.

18:50 PM: WARWICK STUDENTS HAVE CALLED A #COPSOFFCAMPUS PROTEST FOR TOMORROW

Click here for the Fb event

18:19PM: LANCASTER OCCUPATION PRESS RELEASE

For the full thing, click here.

Here’s an extract from Lancaster Occupation’s press release, released at just before 6pm.

 At a time when students are already experiencing a severe crisis in living standards, whether it be in terms of stagnant pay, unaffordable housing costs, poor job prospects and mounting debts, the decision taken by the University’s managers to further extract money from hard pressed students is an absolute disgrace. Post graduate students are already facing severe issues in terms of funding their degrees, whilst a 5% increase in fees for International Students in material terms, with fluctuating currencies, could lead to some students facing an over 50% in fee costs. Paul Mason has spoken of the current generation of graduates being ones with “no future,” and if Management’s proposals were to go through, then the future awaiting currents students would indeed be financially bleak and insecure.

As an occupation, we have agreed upon [a list of 7] demands, which we put forward to Lancaster University Management.

We send solidarity to other university students currently engaged in direct action at their own campuses in opposition to both management and central government policies which work to impoverish and disenfranchise students and other members of their universities, and wish them well in their campaigns.
In solidarity,
Lancaster University House Occupation

17:54PM: SOME PHOTOS FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF EAST ANGLIA

You can see more of these on Defend Education UEA’s facebook page.

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17:52PM: MORE EVIDENCE OF CS SPRAY 

 

17:13PM: WARWICK UPDATE – AT LEAST 3 ARRESTS.

3 arrests and use of pepper spray and tasers confirmed. The use of these would be unprecedented in a campus protest situation (as far as we know).

If you want to contact anyone at Warwick for comment, call 07833446627

17:06PM: WARWICK OCCUPATION STORMED BY POLICE

Warwick occupation has been stormed by police. Reports are that police threatened protesters with CS spray and tasers.

16:34PM: BREAK

We’re going to be taking a short break now, but we’ll be back online soon. Keep tweeting on the #freeeducation hashtag and if you need urgent advice call someone using the ‘contact’ tab on our website (above).

16:32PM: WARWICK ARE DOING A SIT IN

15:44PM: HERE ARE LANCASTER’S OCCUPATION DEMANDS

  1. No rise in tuition fees or rent now or in the future.
  2. Transparency of finance. – where does the surplus go? – Participatory budgeting.
  3. Fair pay for staff.
  4. Maintenance of student bursaries and scholarships.
  5. Care leavers bursary.
  6. Mental health support and funding. – more counsellors. – better health services.
  7. More funding for student services.

 

15:36PM: LANCASTER ARE BEING DENIED ACCESS TO TOILETS

Lancaster University are denying occupiers access to toilets. Tweet at @LancasterUni to demand that they’re allowed them!

 

15:31PM: THE OCCUPATION OF UNIVERSITIES UK HAS ENDED

Students marched out at at about half past 3, chanting and singing. They are now marching round Bloomsbury.

Screenshot (1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

15:28PM:  GET READY FOR WARWICK

‘Cause they’re about to start their demo.

15:17PM: OCCUPATIONS HAVE STARTED GETTING MESSAGES OF SOLIDARITY… FROM EACH OTHER

It’s the best kind of solidarity there is.

 

15:14PM: WE’RE STILL INSIDE UNIVERSITIES UK

The police have closed in, but occupiers still in high spirits. One protester comments:

“UCL activists managed to storm the two sets of doors. We are all buzzing but I reckon the popo will move in soon.”

14:57PM: STUFF IS HAPPENING AT SUSSEX UNI AFTER THEIR CAMPUS DEMO

Exactly what, we’re not sure. We’re finding out what’s happened now; in the meantime here’s a banner being painted for it this morning.

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14:51PM: ONGOING OCCUPATION AT KING’S COLLEGE LONDON

 

14:41PM: AND WE’VE GOT ACTION IN… CAMBRIDGE

Cambridge have started their day of action. Just a banner drop of a prelude to something more? We don’t know yet, so stay tuned.

14:35PM: MORE FROM MANCHESTER

14:30PM: STUDENTS STILL SITTING IN AT KCL

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14:19PM: LONDON IS COMING TO UUK – AND THEY’VE BROKEN IN

UCL have showed up at Universities UK. Another group of students subsequently swarmed into the lobby. The occupation is growing!

14:14PM: AND ANOTHER PICTURE FROM UUK

14:04PM: HERE’S A PICTURE FROM UCL FROM BEFORE. 

13:58PM: UNIVERSITIES UK OCCUPIED

Here’s a picture. The mood is good natured and there’s a band playing.

13:52PM: UNIVERSITIES UK HAS BEEN OCCUPIED, PRIMARILY BY SOAS STUDENTS

There is a live video from Russia Today happening here.

We’ll bring you more updates as we have them. Universities UK is the Vice Chancellors’ union – they’re basically like a gang of batman villains.

 

13:49AM: MORE SCENES FROM UCL – THEY’RE RUNNING ABOUT A BIT

13:34PM: MANCHESTER ARE IN OCCUPATION

13:25PM: IT’S “ON” AT KING’S COLLEGE LONDON

13:24PM: TALK OF “IMPROMPTU DIRECT ACTION” AT UCL

13:20PM: SCENES FROM LANCASTER

13:01PM: BATH ARE STILL BLOCKADING… OR AT LEAST MAKING A POINT

 12:59PM: MANCHESTER ARE MOBILISED ON CAMPUS

12:49pm: LANCASTER ARE IN OCCUPATION AS WELL

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12:46pm: HERE IS SHEFFIELD’S STATEMENT

This afternoon we have gone into occupation as part of a nationwide movement against tuition fees, and in favour of free education.

In the UK today we are forced to endure a system in which you are either put off higher education by the prospect of paying £9,000 fees a year,  or accept the burden of an amount of debt that you will likely never be able to pay off. We think that this is totally unacceptable and morally abhorrent, and argue that education is a universal human right that should not merely be reserved for the wealthy elite, or for those willing to sell themselves to the banks.

As such, we are issuing the following three demands to the management of the University of Sheffield:
1. Lobby the government to scrap tuition fees
2. Give all members of staff that are employed directly or indirectly by the university a living wage in line with the national standard (as set Loughborough University and the Living Wage Foundation)
3. Halt the privatisation of the services that maintain the university, and in particular the Students’ Union

In order to make this point, we have chosen to occupy the Inox Dine restaurant. Inox is designed purely to generate private profit, and is almost universally loathed (by those who know it exists). It is clear that Inox is not intended to improve the student experience; its prices are extortionate and it advertises business lunches and champagne, and yet for some reason it is located in the Students’ Union building. We can think of no place on campus that is more painfully representative of the neoliberal degradation of our university, and of education in general.

Rather than merely occupying this space, however, we intend to  regenerate it into what it should be, and transform it into a place of learning. For the duration of this occupation, let Inox Dine be known as the Free University of Sheffield. We will be opening up this space to students, academic and non-academic staff, and members of the public to come and take part in organising and attending workshops. These can be  anything from practical to academic, and political to apolitical, insofar as they conform to our dedication to providing an education that is non-hierarchical, collectively and directly democratically run, and universally safe and accessible. In doing so, we hope to prove, if only within a limited time and space, that education can be free, and much more equitably run.

If management seek to destroy this occupation, let all bear witness to the fact that they have nothing to do with the genuine provision of education, and are instead its plunderers.

You are warmly invited to join us!

Solidarity to all who believe in an education that is free and fair.

The Free University of Sheffield.

 

12:30 PM: SHEFFIELD UNIVERSITY IS OCCUPIED
09:00 AM BATH UNI STUDENTS HAVE BLOCKADED THEIR UNIVERSITY

6:00 AM CAMEBRIDGE LEFT THEIR MESSAGE OUTSIDE BIS

Here is their statement:

n the early hours of Wednesday, December 3rd, a group of us entered the site of Eastbrook House, an office complex on the outskirts of Cambridge which houses the East Office of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), and defaced the front of the building with slogans such as ‘education: not your business’.

We did this in solidarity with those taking part in today’s day of walkouts, occupations and demonstrations. This is part of the ongoing campaign for free education. At the National Demonstration for Free Education on November 19th, several people were beaten and arrested by police thugs outside London’s BIS office.  One protester was denied treatment for his injuries in custody and was hospitalised immediately upon release.

In targeting BIS we are attacking both state and private control over education. BIS is the state department responsible for managing higher education, regulating business and ‘maintaining economic competition’. That these responsibilities are lumped together epitomizes the increasing control business has over education. Cambridge is a city dominated by the University, a symbol of power and privilege for centuries, which is in turn increasingly dominated by multinational corporations. This takes the form of corporate sponsorship of courses and funding agreements that prioritize profit for the few over education for the many.

We do not merely seek a return to education prior to the introduction of fees. We demand an education that is free both financially and in the sense that it is democratically controlled by those who participate in it and is accessible to all, not just a privileged few.

Recent years have shown that voting and peaceful demonstrations have failed. We have been ignored, lied to, kettled and beaten. This confirms the need for more direct tactics, of which tonight’s action was a small part.

 

CHECK OUT OUR PRESS RELEASE FOR THE DAY:

Contact: 07749263622, 07891714146, 07989235178, 07821731481,

  • Around 20 campuses mobilise for day of action for free education
  • Occupations, blockades and local protests take place on same day as the autumn statement
  • Further localised action expected on Saturday 6th December

Today, students across the country are taking part in a day of action for free education while the government delivers another round of cuts and austerity in parliament.

UPDATE: SEE OUR LIVE BLOG FOR ROLLING COVERAGE.

By 8.30am, Cambridge students had already defaced the front of the local Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS), and the University of Bath was blockaded by students. Many more actions and marches are expected in Lancaster, Manchester, UCL, SOAS, Birmingham, Sussex, Royal Holloway, Warwick, Gloustershire, Sheffield and many others.

The day of action is called by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) as part of a campaign of protest and direct action this autumn. On November 19th, 10,000 students marched on parliament in the biggest demonstration of its kind since 2010. On December 6th, local protests will happen again, aiming to bring communities and workers into the fight for free education.

Deborah Hermanns, from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, said: “Today’s actions are part of the development of a mass and concerted campaign for free education. We are witnessing a resurgence of student activism, not just against tuition fees but for an alternative vision for education – which is democratic, public and accessible to everyone. The only way we are going to win this is through direct action.”

Callum Cant, from Warwick University Free Education Campaign and NCAFC, said: “Across the higher and further education sectors, managers – especially in the Russell Group – are backing fees, cuts and privatisation. Today we are making the point that that is not representative of anyone, and we are demanding that management recognise the democratic will of students and staff: for free education.”

Hattie Craig, from Birmingham Defend Education and NCAFC, said: “We are protesting today because the only way that students, workers and ordinary people can have an impact is by taking direct action. This Saturday, Birmingham, Warwick, Loughborough, Nottingham and Leicester will be holding a joint regional demo for free education, and there will be marches all over the country, bringing in local workers and communities. Free education is not a ‘student issue’ – it is for everyone.”

Notes

  1.  NCAFC is a democratic coalition of students and workers fighting for free education and against fees, cuts and privatisation in education. It has 600-700 members and has existed since 2010

  2. The facebook event for the Wednesday December 6th local marches and rallies is here.

Occupations, blockades and marches: students mobilise for free education as government announces cuts

Contact: 07749263622, 07891714146, 07989235178, 07821731481,

  • Around 20 campuses mobilise for day of action for free education
  • Occupations, blockades and local protests take place on same day as the autumn statement
  • Further localised action expected on Saturday 6th December

Today, students across the country are taking part in a day of action for free education while the government delivers another round of cuts and austerity in parliament.

UPDATE: SEE OUR LIVE BLOG FOR ROLLING COVERAGE.

By 8.30am, Cambridge students had already defaced the front of the local Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS), and the University of Bath was blockaded by students. Many more actions and marches are expected in Lancaster, Manchester, UCL, SOAS, Birmingham, Sussex, Royal Holloway, Warwick, Gloustershire, Sheffield and many others.

The day of action is called by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) as part of a campaign of protest and direct action this autumn. On November 19th, 10,000 students marched on parliament in the biggest demonstration of its kind since 2010. On December 6th, local protests will happen again, aiming to bring communities and workers into the fight for free education.

Deborah Hermanns, from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, said: “Today’s actions are part of the development of a mass and concerted campaign for free education. We are witnessing a resurgence of student activism, not just against tuition fees but for an alternative vision for education – which is democratic, public and accessible to everyone. The only way we are going to win this is through direct action.”

Callum Cant, from Warwick University Free Education Campaign and NCAFC, said: “Across the higher and further education sectors, managers – especially in the Russell Group – are backing fees, cuts and privatisation. Today we are making the point that that is not representative of anyone, and we are demanding that management recognise the democratic will of students and staff: for free education.”

Hattie Craig, from Birmingham Defend Education and NCAFC, said: “We are protesting today because the only way that students, workers and ordinary people can have an impact is by taking direct action. This Saturday, Birmingham, Warwick, Loughborough, Nottingham and Leicester will be holding a joint regional demo for free education, and there will be marches all over the country, bringing in local workers and communities. Free education is not a ‘student issue’ – it is for everyone.”

Notes

  1.  NCAFC is a democratic coalition of students and workers fighting for free education and against fees, cuts and privatisation in education. It has 600-700 members and has existed since 2010
  2. The facebook event for the Wednesday December 6th local marches and rallies is here.