March for free education in your town: 31 January

10250217_824287557631159_3712977707441319733_nOn 31st January, we are calling for a day of local marches for free education. For the facebook event, click here.

The movement for free education has to be broad and based in communities as well as campuses. Education is a social good, and what we are demanding will benefit everybody – we have never talked just about the scrapping of fees, but about re-imagining a whole new education system.

Last December, marches for free education in local towns and cities were organised nationwide, from London and Brighton to traditionally sleepy towns like Bath & Chichester which had rarely seen political activity on the streets before. Now it’s time to march again, louder, bigger and stronger.

We cannot win this system by talking only to other students: there are a multitude of struggles going on in communities nationwide, from battles against academy chains bulldozing local comprehensive schools, to fights for English as a Second Language provision. Link up with these struggles; learn from their activists and build a movement together to march on your town on January 31.

Want help organising something? Send us an email at againstfeesandcuts@gmail.com.

LONDON: We will be part of a student bloc on the March for Homes:https://www.facebook.com/events/576375515827729/
No free education without affordable accommodation!

BRIGHTON: https://www.facebook.com/events/315157348681626/?fref=ts

Education bosses: IT’S PAY DAY

10847843_824311624295419_5511325737092607442_nFor the facebook event, click here.

NCAFC is calling for action in 2015 against pay injustice in education: occupations, stunts, protests and sit-ins.

***WE DEMAND:***

1. A 5:1 pay ratio at all universities, colleges and schools, with all in-house and outsourced workers paid at least the Living Wage

2. Action to close the gender and racist pay gaps

3. Democratic structures which put workers, students and local communities in control of our universities, colleges and schools, including on issues such as pay.

___

From university Vice-Chancellors and college Principals to academy school super-heads, senior managers are taking home six-figure salaries while students and workers bear the brunt of austerity.

Pay inequality is rife in the education sector and we believe this can be graphically illustrated; we aim to take action on the day that our highly paid head honchos have managed to make the same amount as the lowest paid staff members make in a year. For many, this will happen before the end of January!

Action in each institution will take place on a different day depending on your calculations, which means you can be as creative as you want! Throw your Vice-Chancellor a big party outside their office to congratulate them on their record of cutting everyone’s wages but their own, stage a sit-in outside your principal’s office to protest against poverty pay below the living wage, occupy the offices of senior management on the grounds that OUR fees are paying for the luxury.

To calculate when your day of action should be you need to know exactly how much your Vice-Chancellor, principal or headteacher is paid per year and compare it to how much the lowest paid (minimum wage) workers at your insitution are paid per year.

The next step is to find out (assuming everyone is paid the same amount per day) at what point your VC, principal or headteacher will have earnt the same amount as the lowest paid worker per year. For example, by the 15th of January, the Vice-Chancellor at Bath will have earned what his underpaid staff get for an entire year’s work! If you need help, contact againstfeesandcuts@gmail.com.

It’s important to coordinate with workers and try to help any campaigns around pay that they may already have. As you’re planning your action, get in touch with worker activists on your campus, or the trade union branches.

This action highlights not only pay inequality but also the desperate need for parity of wages across the board, particularly in our universites, colleges and schools. As a bare minimum, we demand a 5:1 pay ratio, meaning that the highest paid staff member may only be paid five times as much as the lowest paid. This would start to close the gender pay gap in important ways, as well as racist pay gaps within the institution.

Of course, our senior management is disproportionately made up of men but, more importantly, the lowest paid workers such as cleaners and caterers are disproportionately women and migrant workers.

The lack of true democracy in our universities means that pay is not something that can be discussed and issued fairly amongst the workers. Democratic schools, colleges and universities would see improvements in pay and conditions for workers, and ultimately we believe our education system can do away with unelected, overpaid bosses altogether.

17 December London protest against cuts to education and youth services

borisThe NCAFC is supporting this protest against Boris Johnson, Mayor of London – the scrooge that is planning on cutting millions of pounds from education and youth services in London this Christmas. [Read more…]

Lambeth College strike rally, Wednesday 17 December

The Lambeth College workers’ strike against attacks on their terms and conditions is continuing. Please build solidarity, starting with their rally on 17 December – 12 noon, outside their Clapham Common site. More details below. [Read more…]

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.”

Good Conduct vs Safe Space – James McAsh

This is an opinion piece by James McAsh. It refers to the National Conference 2014 motion ‘Our Working Environment’ which can be found here. NCAFC encourages open discussion and debate – if you have an opinion on this motion or any other please write an article for the website!

 

I have written, and the National Committee has proposed, a motion for NCAFC National Conference which would alter our approach to dealing with poor or unsafe behaviour. It would replace the existing ‘Safer Spaces’ policy with a ‘Good Conduct’ policy and an ‘Events’ policy.

The Events Policy is straightforward. It allows event organisers to remove, or prevent from attending, someone who they believe will threaten the safety of others. This adds to the existing power laid out in the constitution for membership to be removed from someone whose behaviour prevents the campaign from functioning properly (this includes unsafe behaviour but could also be used to expel people who behave in other destructive ways).

The Good Conduct Policy is more nuanced. It changes the emphasis from ‘space’ to ‘conduct’, and from a sole focus on safety to a wider remit of good behaviour.

 

From ‘space’ to ‘conduct’

There are two reasons for this change in emphasis. The first is to make the document less abstract. Space is shaped by the physical environment and the actions of others. Our ability to shape the physical environment is limited, and we already have accessibility policies to cover the areas which we can influence. The risks in a space that we do have influence over are the result of people’s behaviour. We should tell it how it is and refer to ‘conduct’ or ‘behaviour’.

The second reason for this is that the expectation of good behaviour in NCAFC spaces is no different to what we would expect elsewhere. For instance, both the existing ‘safer spaces policy’ and the proposed ‘Good Conduct Policy’ say that NCAFC participants should not discriminate on the basis of race. Surely we should expect this from everyone everywhere!

The language of ‘safe space’ comes from support groups for survivors of sexual violence and sufferers of addiction. Here it makes a lot more sense: there are rules in place for that specific space which would not work normally. For instance, in Alcoholics Anonymous there is an expectation that participants should not be required to surrender their anonymity. This expectation is central to the functioning of the group but it would not be desirable for it to be more widespread: sometimes it is necessary to know people’s names. NCAFC is an organisation of activists trying to change the world: the norms and rules that govern its events and meetings should be designed for that task.

 

From ‘safe’ to ‘good’

The other shift in emphasis is from ‘safe’ to ‘good’. The proposed policy still refers to safety but the emphasis is now wider.

NCAFC has higher expectations of conduct than most of society. We expect our members to treat one another in a respectful, co-operative and comradely way. However, we are also an inclusive organisation that realises that the oppressive structures of society creates a lot of ‘baggage’ which people cannot immediately rid themselves of.

Broadly speaking there is a spectrum of behaviour with ‘unsafe’ at one extreme and ‘good’ at the other. But most behaviour falls somewhere in the middle – safe but by no means perfect. The proposed policies do two things: establish ways of dealing with behaviour which fall below these minimum standards of safety, and outline the higher standards of behaviour which we expect for participants to aim for.

This distinction is very important. The current ‘safer spaces’ policy only differentiates between ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’ behaviour. This is insufficient. Under such a policy it is easy to mischaracterise behaviour which may be unpleasant and undesirable a being unsafe. For instance, adherence to the proposed Good Conduct Policy would mean that participants avoid making others feel anxious, nervous or offended. But sometimes it is not possible or desirable to meet this objective: failure to meet it does not necessarily mean that the space is unsafe. For instance, if you have strong views on a subject you may feel offended by others being dismissive of it. Where possible, participants should avoid causing offense but as part of a heated political debate it is not ‘unsafe’ to proclaim that, for instance, ‘homeopathy is nonsense’.

 

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

Take action this week: cops off campus! Solidarity with Warwick!

In solidarity with the Warwick students, who last week faced police brutality when they were beaten and attacked with CS spray, the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts is calling for actions by students this week.

We are calling on students to march, protest, occupy buildings and find other, creative ways of showing their support for the students of Warwick, and to demand cops off campus and support the movement for free education.
warwick brutality
Please post news of your plans and actions in the NCAFC facebook group, and email reports to [email protected]
Keep an eye on anticuts.com for news of actions as the week goes on!

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.”