This letter has been written by LGBT+ student officers and activists since NUS LGBT+ conference voted to support free, liberatory education and living grants, and to call on NUS to organise a national demonstration this autumn to fight for them. LGBT+ activists can email [email protected] to add more signatures! We hope this letter will be useful in lobbying your NUS delegates to vote the right way!
Dear NUS Conference 2015 delegates,
We’re writing as LGBT+ officers and student activists to urge you to support free education and living grants, and vote for NUS to call a national demonstration in November 2015 as a vital part of campaigning to win them!
Education is a fundamental right. It transforms lives. And it’s a social good for all of us – imagine living in a society where nobody learned to build bridges, create art, programme computers or investigate the mysteries of the universe. So it must be freely accessible to everyone, funded by those in society who can well afford it – by properly enforcing taxes on the rich and their businesses!
This year, NUS LGBT+ conference overwhelmingly voted to support free education and living grants, and to call on NUS to organise a national demonstration in November and a week of action early next year. Why is this an issue that LGBT+ students in particular want NUS to fight for? It’s not just about the price tag, it’s about liberation.
Education is a tool for our liberation. Education can help equip us to analyse and fight oppression – to understand the world and to change it for the better, which is why we also urge you to support motions to liberate our curricula, making sure we include the voices, perspectives and histories of marginalised groups and our struggles.
Living grants can be a particular lifeline for LGBT+ students. With the abolition of Education Maintenance Allowance, Masters funding non-existent, apprentice’s wages kept down and undergrad loans and PhD stipends being eroded, financial support for students to access and stay in education is an issue for everyone. But especially for LGBT+ people, whose intolerant families may refuse to support them, or who are forced to stay in the closet to maintain their families’ support, living wages for apprentices and universal living grants would mean being able to access education, free ourselves from the closet, and not be faced with living in poverty.
Asking politicians, employers, principals and vice-chancellors for our liberation isn’t enough. We have to fight for it. Betrayal after betrayal has shown us we can’t rely on politicians’ pledges and the ballot box alone. Whoever wins the General Election, we will need to get our issues on the table and force change with a strategy of both local and national protest, direct action and lobbying. Calling a national demonstration this autumn will not be a magic solution, but it’s a vital part of the plan. Bringing together students from across the country in a national demonstration with clear demands – free education and living grants paid for by taxing the rich – will help raise our cause up the agenda and put pressure on the government and political parties. It will also inspire and train activism on every campus that gets involved, helping to build a movement that can carry on the struggle beyond a single day of protest, as far as it needs to go to win. We know from other countries where students have won free education that this is the kind of movement we need to build.
Abolishing fees and introducing living grants is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to liberating education – we must also tackle issues such as access to childcare, disabled students’ support and the BME attainment gap – but it is an essential piece. Please vote for NUS to put words into action, and fight for it!
Fran Cowling, NUS LGBT+ Officer (Women’s Place)
Raquel Palmeira, NCAFC LGBTQ Rep
Beth Redmond, NUS Presidential candidate & NCAFC Women’s Co-Rep
Tom Robinson, UCLU LGBT+ Officer & NUS LGBT+ Committee (Disabled Rep)
Chris Pike, NUS LGBT+ Committee (Disabled Rep-elect)
James Elliott, NUS NEC & NCAFC Disabled Co-Rep
Ben Towse, NUS Postgrad Committee & NCAFC National Committee
Luke Allison, NUSU LGBT Officer, Welfare & Equality Officer-elect
Lorcan Bevan, Brighton SU LGBTQ+ Officer-elect
Jack Chadwick, York University Students’ Union LGBTQ Officer
Cerys Way, Birmingham Guild of Students Chair of LGBTQ
Rachel O’Brien, Birmingham Guild of Students Community Action Officer & NCAFC Disabled Co-Rep
Jack Saffery-Rowe, Royal Holloway LGBT+ officer 2013-14 & NCAFC LGBTQ rep 2012-14
Fred Craig, NCAFC National Committee
Helena Dunnett-Orridge, NCAFC National Committee
Kate Bradley, LGBTQ Rep for Oriel College, University of Oxford
Ashley Reed, University of York LGBTQ Network Committee
Joe Baines-Holmes, NUS LGBT+ Delegate
Dario Celaschi, NUS London Trans* Officer, NUS NEC
Holly Staynor, Welfare, Community and Diversity Officer at Union of UEA
Rowan Davis, Trans Representative on the Oxford University Women’s Campaign and LGBTQ Society
Tommy Snipe, Reading University Students’ Union, LGBT+ Part-time Officer
Josh Lang, Reading University LGBT+ Society, President
Limor Best, Liverpool Hope Students’ Union Vice-President Welfare & Community
Hannah Baker, Liverpool Hope Students’ Union President
Charley Hasted, LGBTQ officer Lambeth College, NUS LGBT+ Committee (FE Rep Elect)
Molly Maher, Vice President Welfare and Campaigns The University of Brighton for 2015/16
LGBT+ activists can email [email protected] to add signatures