WTF is Going On? Nationwide Meetings

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Students are now facing an attack on education that is just as severe as the introduction of 9k tuition fees in 2010.

But this time, the issues aren’t quite so obvious. Instead of one big headline, the government plans, announced in the 2015 budget, are attacking education from every angle – the conversion of grants to loans for the poorest students, the change of student debt repayment conditions, the introduction of new teaching metrics, cuts that will lead to the destruction of elements of FE, and more.

As student activists, we obviously plan on fighting the government.

But unless thousands and thousands of previously apolitical students understand what is going on, we will never win. We need to broaden our movement, get them on board, and take on George Osborne together.

Which is why the NCAFC fully supports our affiliates the Young Greens in their call for a nationwide series of public meetings, titled: ‘WTF is going on? The Fight for Education’.

We are calling on local activists and NCAFC members to get involved in these meetings, help organise existing events and set them up where they don’t exist. Building local coalitions of left-wing supporters of the Greens, Labour, Left Unity, of all parties and of none; and of Free Education activists, worker activists, climate activists and liberation activists; and involving them all in the job of explaining the issues to students: this is the only way to get the message out.

There is a lot of work to be done. We need to speak to literally thousands of students on every campus if we want to maximise our mobilisation.

We are planning to distribute thousands of 20 page pamphlets containing in detail policy details – titled ‘Their Education and Ours’ – over the next few months and in these public meetings. We also aim to get speakers to as many events as possible, work with local activist groups, help provide leaflets and fliers to spread information about the November 4th national demonstration and more – with the aim of building the level of political consciousness within the student population as quickly as possible. These meetings are just the start.

Post on the Facebook group or all-member Loomio if you need to get in touch.

NCAFC opposes the #LabourPurge!

2H5BLvn0_400x400Over the last few days, many NCAFC members have had their membership applications to the Labour Party rejected.

These are young people who agree with Corbyn’s position on free education, the reintroduction of Education Maintenance Allowance, and more. They are politically active – and were excited about getting the chance fight alongside a Labour party that values them. But party HQ wants to put a stop to that.

It is becoming increasingly clear that we are seeing a purge of Corbyn supporters.

Not only is it monumentally stupid to be actively fighting against an influx of excited, politically active young members, it also totally discredits internal party democracy. The fact that this campaign to root out left wing Labour voters has been called ‘Operation Ice Pick’ within party HQ can only emphasise its Stalinist aspect.

NCAFC condemns these rejections as the undemocratic last gasp of a Labour establishment desperately trying to suppress a surge in left wing politics. We also want to reiterate our support for the Corbyn campaign, and look forwards to the victory party in Trafalgar square.

If you have been rejected, don’t take it lying down! Ring up party HQ to argue your case, lodge an appeal, tweet on #LabourPurge, attend your ward meeting in September, like this facebook page and watch out for more co-ordinated ‘anti purge’ campaigns as they emerge.

Fighting for Free Speech: The Student Strike at the Film and Television Institute of India

IMG_3804by Daniel Rawnsley

At the time of writing students at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune, Maharashtra, have entered their 64th day of strike action. Students are protesting the appointment of five new members to the FTII Society, from which the academic and administrative governing bodies of the institute are formed. These appointees are Gajendra Chauhan, Narendra Pathak, Anagha Ghaisas, Rahul Solapurkar and Shailesh Gupta.

IMG_3812The students argue that the appointments are political in nature, that the appointees have done nothing that commends them to lead the FTII in terms of their contributions to film and television and that the appointees have close ties to the ruling far-right Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or its ideological handler organisation the fascistic Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The appointments appear, instead, to be part of the BJP/RSS project of ‘Saffronisation’; bending cultural and political life in to a narrow framework of Hindu nationalism.

The students have faced down threats of violence from Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (AVBP), the youth wing of RSS and have confronted intimidation from a new interim director of the institute who has threatened to rusticate students, conduct final assessments that would force students to leave campus and sack staff who carry out vital work supporting students film projects on the pretence that, in the context of the strike they are not currently needed.IMG_3817

The students have met their opponents by building solidarity with other institutions, including a similar strike in Pondicherry and making links with trade unions in Pune that can support university workers. In this activity the students are building on a strong legacy of student-worker solidarity at FTII.

In an India where dissidents face intimidation and violence from RSS organisations, where books and films risk being banned for going against the government’s narrow Hindu nationalism and where activists face being branded as ‘anti-nationalist’ and ‘Naxalites’ (Maoist guerrillas) the FTII students are standing up as a beacon for free speech.

 

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Job losses and privatisation at the University of Manchester

university-place1By Jess Patterson, University of Manchester UCU Exec & NCAFC Postgrad Research rep, originally posted on the Fighting Against Casualisation in Education site.

Currently in Manchester the three campus Unions, UCU, Unite and Unison, are mobilising to take action against management over the announcement of hundreds of potential compulsory redundancies. After a huge cross-union meeting on Tuesday the 11th of August, this is the situation as it currently stands.

A basic summary

The University of Manchester is in the process of making a growing number of staff redundant – over 250 workers have been told that they are ‘at risk’ of compulsory redundancy, on statutory terms. At the same time, the University is attempting unilaterally to push through a change in the Redeployment Policy (the system whereby eligible staff, whose jobs are being altered, can apply for vacancies elsewhere in the university) so that in future people will no longer be able to remain on the Register until an alternative position can be found for them. Instead anyone who has been on the Register for three months will face compulsory redundancy.

The situation in Manchester has several complicated factors, including questions of trade union procedure and quality impact assessments, with the disproportionate effect of the changes on BME and disabled members of staff being of particular concern. It also has some interesting implications for the prospects of increased out-sourcing and the casualisation of academic work. The aggressive erosion of job security that the restructuring plan represents will make it much easier for the University to get rid of unwanted members of staff whenever such cost-saving initiatives demand it.

Is there a Dispute?

Bizarrely, despite UCU’s insistence and several huge cross-union meetings, the University itself is refusing to recognise this as an official dispute, on the basis that any redundancy made would be ‘in line with existing University policies and processes’. The University has even announced that the consultation process is now concluded, while UCU has released a statement that it does not consider any meaningful consultation to have taken place.

This position ignores the fact that the willingness to use compulsory redundancies and the proposed changes to Redeployment represent a dramatic change in the University’s approach. In the past Manchester has always ruled out compulsory redundancies in an effort to reduce costs or achieve organisational change, even when the University has been going through significant financial challenges or large-scale restructuring such as the merger with UMIST in 2004. Such a measure has always been regarded inappropriate to a University setting, on the basis that the resulting atmosphere would damage the culture of a higher education institution; in particular, collegiality, academic freedom and job security.

So far the University has not shown any willingness to consult or negotiate meaningfully with the Trade Unions. In fact in several instances UMUCU was only informed of major decisions affecting their members after they had been made. In one particularly telling incident Union reps were only given 38 minutes notice of a major change of circumstances prior to an “informal” meeting with management. Before the meeting, due to take place at 11am, Trade Unions received notification at 10.22am, that 219 IT staff were now at risk (with 68 redundancies ultimately being sought), and were informed that the scheduled “informal” meeting would in fact mark the start of formal collective consultations. They were also informed that the announcement would be made to IT staff at a meeting later the same day at 3pm.

UCU thus holds that this rapid escalation of the dispute constitutes a breach of the Recognition and Procedure agreements between the Union and the University, amounting in essence to the de facto de-recognition of the campus Trade Unions. No doubt this unprecedented level of hostility is linked to the general threat to Trade Union activity, proposed by Sajid Javid’s Trade Union Bill. As campaigns such at The ‘Right to Strike’ have been highlighting, such a climate has created a situation in which the power of union activity seems almost inevitably diminished. In Manchester, the timing of the threat seems to further prompt cynicism as to the university’s motives.

Re-structuring and the threat of encroaching casualisation

Such moves also represent a risk to academic workers, with the increased threat of out-sourcing. In the past, when Schools have been closed or restructured, academic staff have been accommodated into new structures and have generally been allowed to pursue their research interests. In future, re-structuring schemes such as the model currently being imposed in IT could be applied to academic departments, with the same result of compulsory redundancies. As in the case of Trade Union disputes, such a prospect is made more likely by the current political climate. Minister for Universities and Science, Jo Johnson’s, proposed TEF (Teaching in Excellence Framework) and its accompanying metrics of graduate earnings makes the threat to certain departments seem all the more imminent. Just like in some cases following the assessment of the REF (Research in Excellence framework) management may target staff whose research is not within arbitrary ‘priority’ areas, or which is currently unfashionable, or, in the case of the TEF, whose students simply do not go on to high-earning careers. These changes make a move in that direction both more feasible and more likely.

Another potential threat is the increased and very likely use of out-sourcing in the case of re-structures like this one. In a cross-union meeting this week, staff from other areas of the University explained how the end result of similar re-shuffles had been the increasing use of agency staff to plug the gaps where staff, now made redundant, would have been working. This seems a very likely outcome in the case of IT, where 68 redundancies is the stated target, without sign of a significant reduce in work-load. Moreover, the disproportionate targeting of mid-career, middle-aged staff, suggests an increasing separation between senior posts and agency-covered work.

This is the sort of work-force pattern that schemes like Warwick’s Teach Higher out-sourcing model proposed, which separated permanent staff and researchers for agency employed teaching staff, on a much lower wage. Thus, although not necessarily apparent at first, such changes do represent a considerable threat to early-career researchers and teachers. Unlike staff employed on a permanent or ‘core-funding’ basis, those on fixed term contracts or contracts based on fixed-term funding are already in a precarious position. In that sense these changes may not immediately threaten them. However, this is also precisely the group aspiring to attain those mid-career posts that are currently being erased. These sorts of changes are aimed at undermining long-term job-security and in effect threaten all those ‘more secure’ permanent positions with the University that already casualised workers are demanding.

What’s going to happen next?

The cross-union meeting concluded that it was now time for staff and students to collectively put pressure on the University to take the dispute and the need for negotiation seriously. There will be several days of action, both leading up to and during Welcome week. The Unions are also currently conducting a survey to test the appetite for industrial action, with the likelihood of calling for action short of a strike, unless management significantly changes its stance.

Grass-roots organisations, such as FACE have been quick to notice the wider ramifications of such changes, hence the effective response of the local campaign group ‘hourly paid at Warwick’ against Teach Higher. Recent developments at Manchester, however, demonstrate how this fight is far from over. Those concerned with the marketisation of Higher Education and its damaging effects on the labour force, ought to watch the developments at this Russell-group university closely. There is increasing evidence that similar things are happening in different ways across different campuses. It is, therefore, essential that we are able to view these various attacks as inter-connected. By linking activists across the country we can go some way to achieving this.

 

Why I might not be attending NUS National Conference 2016

nusby Alasdair Clark, Vice President Education at Fife College Students’ Association

After two years of making the annual trip to Liverpool for NUSNational Conference, I’ve left feeling exhausted and been unable to go back to work after it. If this is the effect on me as someone who has no access needs, I know that we’re further shutting out those who do.

But for two years I’ve also sat and listened to DPC speech after DPC speech telling me conference is inaccessible and that we “must do something about it now”, and I’m told this isn’t new. So what has been done?

Well in truth, I’m not sure anything has been. This year, it’s been decided that National Conference will be held in Brighton – I understand well the need for NUS to keep the costs of these events as low as possible whilst finding hotels and venues for a huge amount of delegates and meeting as many access needs as is humanly possible, but I absolutely refuse to believe that the only place they could find this year was Brighton. The very bottom of the United Kingdom.

This piece could be about cost, and believe me this weighs massively on my mind. We already pay thousands to be a part of NUS and the prospect of paying another few thousand pounds to take part in its democracy isn’t one that is all that appealing – especially when we’ve seen examples already this year where that democracy can be over ridden by the National President – but there is something much more important we need to start seriously talking about beyond tired old platitudes from election candidates and NUS Officers.

Brighton is a 16 hour round train trip from my home in Fife, which is relatively central in Scotland – it’s a 22 hour round trip from Aberdeen – this coupled with 3 days of conference will be absolutely draining. I’m worried that for Scottish delegates it will just be too much, and many will just not come.

Conference itself already breaks the EU Working Time Directive, with the majority of the ‘breaks’ disguised as Fringe sessions you already have to choose between eating and resting or missing out on important sessions for the majority of the conference. The working time directive also includes travelling time, this huge increase in delegates travel time will further break this law – and let’s be clear it is a law and employers can be prosecuted for allowing, or forcing, employees to work for extended periods over it. That’s why I would never ask our unions staff to attend. If we heard that our institutions were abusing staff like this we’d quite rightly have something to say and we’d be doing something about it. So where is the anger at NUS?

However, as a sabbatical I don’t just have myself to think about. The majority of our delegation is made up of students, people who give up a week of their Easter Break to come and take part in NUS. We tell them it’s really important, and we tell them how much we value their engagement with their Union and with NUS. We thank them by putting them into a situation which is dangerous to their health and then send them back to complete their final exams the week after. This isn’t fair of us, and it’s time we done something about it.

It is probably too late to change the location this year. So I hope that within the governance review we get to talk about how we do conference, and next year we see it extended or split into two sessions throughout the year. I understand there are pros and cons to each of those but let’s stop kidding ourselves that what we have just now is ideal.

NUS Conference needs to be as central in the UK as possible, and NUS needs to start putting delegate’s health over cost, and unless I see a solution to these issues proposed – I’ll be suggesting my union doesn’t attend in 2016.

@alasdair_clark

#SaveKelechi – prevent persecution

kelechi

A statement from NCAFC International Student’s Caucus.

On Tuesday August 11th, there will be a rally in front of the home office against the the deportation of Kelechi, an international student from Nigeria.She is askingfor asylum for studying as a post graduate, as she fears that her condition- she is in a wheelchair and has mental health issues- would make her sidelined and excluded from the society. But, the government of the UK have refused. The fact that the government does not grant asylum for a student who, in addition to suffering from disabilities, was an outstanding volunteer in her community and was involved with the Black students campaign at NUS.

This shows that the government see more and more students, especially international students to be seen as only that; students paying to study and not a human being. This is disgusting. The NCAFC condemn the refusal of granting the asylum as we feel that a student is a student and a human being, and we stand for education for all from any countries. Students must not be discriminated by some artificial limitation and distinction. The government should not forget that international students who studied there have developed bonds, and sending them away as soon as they have finished the course is detrimental to their livelihood. As well as free education, we demand the abolition of borders, as we believe that every one has a right to study in the UK.

We, the NCAFC demand that the government grant asylum to Kelechi, in order to protect from abuse she could faced in Nigeria and we call on everyone who can to be in front of the Home office at 8:30 am on Tuesday 11th August to support Kelechi.

Burnham & Cooper: putting tuition fees in fancy dress


Andy-BurnhamBy Beth Redmond and Luke Neal

As the last month of the Labour leadership contest approaches, those of us watching with baited breath finally got to see some Actual Policies about education being announced this week.

Liz Kendall pledged to “end inequality from birth” by extending early years education. Jeremy Corbyn announced he could make higher education free by increasing corporation tax by 0.5%. Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham, not wanting to stray too far from the middle of the road, announced that they would abolish tuition fees—in favour of a graduate tax.

It’s good that the work the student movement has done over the past 5 years, combined with Corbyn’s (so far) successful campaign and leftward-drag on the leadership election, is having some sort of influence over what the other candidates are saying. That Burnham and Cooper feel the need to disguise their policy and frame it as “abolishing tuition fees” is indicative of the good work of the student movement.

Dressing up moderate policies with a left-wing headline in a bid to steal votes from Corbyn, whose ideas are dominating the leadership election, is nothing new for Burnham. Only a few days ago he announced that he is in favour of re-nationalising the railways, but take a closer look and you will see that he just wants to lift the ban on public providers bidding to compete with private companies running the rails.

A graduate tax isn’t good enough; it’s essentially a rebranding of tuition fees. Burnham claims he wants to “lift the millstone of debt” from students, but is actually proposing a very similar form of funding, namely through decades of deductions from graduate wages. While a graduate tax pushes the headline of a fee into the background, it still depends on the idea that individuals who receive the financial benefit of a degree should pay for the privilege. So what seems like a step forward—taxation rather than loans and debts—actually relies on the same logic: of education as an individual investment in a competitive market. Unless it is a tax to fund HE on wealth itself (as Corbyn is proposing a form of), this represents little progress.

The details of the policy are typically unclear; it is highly unlikely that Burnham and Cooper’s version of “abolishing tuition fees” would apply to students coming to Britain from outside the EU.

Such mild reforms will do little to undo the damage the market is inflicting upon colleges and universities. The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts will continue to challenge the rule of the market and fight for free education, funded by taxing big businesses and the rich. We will be encouraging students to vote for Jeremy Corbyn — the only candidate in the Labour leadership election to put our interests on the agenda.

Agenda released for NCAFC Summer Training & Gathering

lesocoOn the first weekend of September in London, NCAFC will be holding its annual summer training event. Students, officers and activists are invited to come and take part in workshops, discussion and debates focused on every aspect of the student movement. It will be a space for officers and activists to learn from each other, cover the major issues that are coming up in the year ahead, make plans, and get to know each other and have fun. We have got a really important year ahead of us, and so it is vital that we equip ourselves with the ideas and skills for the challenges ahead.

The agenda is below. The event is free and we can arrange free accommodation too – so please register as soon as possible! If you cannot get your SU to fund your travel and then unable to do so yourself but still wish to attend then please get in touch (againstfeesandcuts@gmail.com) and we can talk about subsidies. And don’t forget to invite your friends to the facebook event!

FRIDAY 4 SEPTEMBER

Work day: building for the national free education demo (exact times TBC – get in touch if you want to come and help)

SATURDAY 5 SEPTEMBER

10:30 – REGISTRATION OPEN

11:00 – PLENARY – Opening speeches and short points from the floor

11:30 – WORKSHOP SLOT 1

  1. Unionising 101 – How to organise in your shit Saturday job!
  2. Strategy for climate change activism
  3. Running an effective housing campaign

12:45 – BREAK

13:00 – LGBTQ CAUCUS

13:30 – LUNCH

14:00 – SESSION – What is happening to FE and adult education?

14:45 – WOMEN & NON-BINARY CAUCUS

15:15 – Break

15:30 – WORKSHOP SLOT 2

  1. How to be a good lefty sabb
  2. Building an effective and democratic free ed group
  3. Practical skills: Public speaking/Press (split parallel sessions)

16:45 – BREAK

17:00 – BLACK CAUCUS

17:30 – PLENARY – The Assault on Higher Education: How did we get here and how do we fight this?

19:00 – CLOSE & MEAL/SOCIAL

SUNDAY 6 SEPTEMBER

10:30 – PLENARY – Responding to maintenance grant cuts

11:30 – DISABLED CAUCUS

12:00 – BREAK

12:15 – WORKSHOP SLOT 3

  1. How to occupy and dealing with repression
  2. A lefty guide to student union bureaucracy – Charity law, Education Act & negotiating democratic structures
  3. Killing Prevent

13:30 – LUNCH

14:00 – STUDENT STRIKE STRATEGY Part 1

15:30 – BREAK

15:45 – STUDENT STRIKE STRATEGY Part 2

16:30 – CLOSING SESSION: Building for the demo!

17:15 – CLOSE OF TRAINING

“What have you done about fox hunting?” James Elliott’s report on NUS NEC, 20/7/15

james elliottJames Elliott is the NUS Disabled Students Campaign’s second representative on the NUS National Executive Council, and NCAFC Disabled Co-Rep. This is his report back from the recent NUS NEC meeting.

This year’s first NEC meeting was both more toxic and less productive than any of last year’s. Given the remarkably low expectations I had for Monday, it took a particularly ludicrous meeting to fall short of that. In this report I will try and outline what happened, and my perspective on that.

The NEC

The make-up of this year’s NEC is considerably more left-leaning than last year’s, with the Left winning Vice-President positions in Welfare, Higher Education and Further Education at National Conference. The official ‘Labour Students’ group now has only two members of the NEC, while there are at least half a dozen other NEC members I can think of who are actually members of Labour Students (such as myself) but who are not invited to caucus as Labour Students because of our extremist belief that students shouldn’t pay any tuition fees.

Inductions

Most of the meeting was taken up by inductions, which is no bad thing in itself, and there is nothing to report from this other than there was a heavier emphasis this year that policy is only ‘emergency’ and we should refrain from submitting any motions unless we felt it was necessary.

Accountability

Officers were expected to explain their priorities for the year ahead, rather than report on previous work, as they had only been in post for 20 days.

Newly-elected National President Megan Dunn outlined her plans for the campaign to save student maintenance grants. While these included what you might expect in terms of lobbying your MP, signing petitions, and hopefully a national lobby of Parliament in the Autumn (all good ideas), it is disappointing that so far NUS have made no indication of taking any direct action. Creative stunts get media attention, and repeated coverage builds a campaign’s narrative and keeps it in the public eye. The NCAFC motion, discussed later on, which called for demonstrations about grants was voted against by the minority on NEC – making me wonder whether they think demonstrating against cuts to grants is some sort of red line. I also feel I should point out that there had been no attempt to canvass the views of NEC members on how best to campaign against grant cuts.

There was also particular anger about the handling of the Coca Cola boycott and BDS issue from NUS Awards 2015, and Megan Dunn was asked very directly why she had ignored the policy here. This issue was then worsened when, during NEC, David Cameron referred to NUS in his speech on radicalisation, saying that NUS’s association with CAGE ‘shames your organisation’. An immediate response had been uploaded to NUS connect, without consulting the NEC present in the room, or even the officers under whose Zone the Prevent agenda is covered. The press release said that NUS would not and never has worked with CAGE. Megan Dunn then explained that decision had been taken by the previous President (Toni Pearce), and had not been overturned. NCAFC member Beth Redmond asked whether this meant that the President could just overturn policy on a whim (as Conference voted to work with CAGE), and got a non-committal response. Whatever your opinion of CAGE, or the merits of working with them on some issues, it is deeply worrying that National Conference votes can just be overturned because the President disagrees with them.

New Vice-President Union Development Richard Brooks introduced his plans, which included discussions of the controversial governance review. A lot of NEC expressed their discomfort about this, given the history of governance reviews being used in both the NUS and the Labour Party (where all such tricks are learnt) to curtail democracy. Richard Brooks then assured it wasn’t a factional matter.

VP Society and Citizenship, Piers Telemacque, then delivered his report for the year. He received a particularly surprising question from Robbie Young, LGBT+ Officer, who asked in rather vexed tones what he had done about the fox hunting vote in Parliament. It was clear the question was designed to trip him up and paint him in a negative light, and made a mockery of the whole accountability session.

The NEC then voted (rightly) to hear from the nations, liberation and sections representatives about their work before moving to motions.

Motions

The first motion was the controversial motion of censure in President Megan Dunn for her handling of the Coca Cola issue. I voted for the motion for the reasons mentioned in Believes 5 and 6, which explained she had assured Full-Time Officers there would be a statement apologising, and then U-turned on this. The motion was passed with a majority.

Two motions passed without controversy: motion two to support SUs in Northern Ireland, and motion one to support SU officers.

There was then a motion on the NCAFC free education demonstration. Predictably, a lot of the NEC were opposed but the motion passed. The tired old argument that because NUS has nations, we can’t support demonstrations against the government in London, was once again wheeled out. NCAFC actually stuck to the precedent of the 2011 demo against the HE white paper, where we requested the same sum of money (£4,000) as we had received then to support our demo, as unlike NUS we are not a multi-million pound union. The best summary of the right-wing’s arguments, which are as endless as they are circular, about this has been given by NCAFC National Committee member Ben Towse on Facebook:

“Talking about Palestine? Why aren’t you talking about grants!?

Organise a national demo about grants to march on the primary seat of political/economic power in the UK and the home of the government attacking grants? Oh, it’s always London London London with you!

Organise national day of regional action across the UK to complement national demo, and a wider campaign beyond the demo? Not interested, why are you demanding universal grants, that just helps rich people! And anyway, you’re always banging on about higher education, what about further education?

Propose to help build capacity for strong student unionism and protest and direct action in colleges? Stop interfering with FE and imposing HE students’ solutions!

We then moved to a motion to campaign against the government’s cut to maintenance grants. NCAFC proposed a detailed amendment which listed action which varied from lobbying MPs and supporting the EDM to demonstrating outside Sajid Javid and Jo Johnson’s constituency offices.

Jordan Kenny, Bath President, spoke against the NCAFC amendment and made two rather amusing comments. Firstly, he said that not everyone on the NEC was part of the ‘Jeremy Corbyn fan club’, a reference to the Early Day Motion that Jeremy Corbyn had submitted, which the motion asked to support. I genuinely struggle to understand the position that because the EDM comes from Corbyn, we shouldn’t promote it, when it has support from MPs across six parties. NUS had not promoted it at all before the NEC meeting, despite it being the only EDM on maintenance grants in Parliament. It is the lowest form of factional politics to refuse to help a campaign on student grants because you don’t like who proposed the motion.

His second comment, even more bemusing than the first, was that we should consider that some students are Conservatives before we started protesting against Tory MPs who were cutting grants. What Jordan Kenny meant by this only he is at liberty to explain, which he has done on his blog, but I for one am totally resistant towards the idea of not campaigning against a policy because some students support it. The desire to represent everyone’s views at the same time would require us simultaneously campaigning for and against the grant cut. Worse than that, the Tories are deporting some of our students. It is self-evidently a terrible political argument, and I would hope the “but Tories” case doesn’t rear its head again on the NEC.

The NCAFC amendment passed, then a Labour Students amendment came up which said basically the same without the demonstrations, but included support for means-testing, and was hence voted down.

When it came to the final motion, Labour Students then voted against it, presumably because it now excluded means-testing and talked about demonstrations. Thankfully, the motion passed.

I then proposed a procedural motion to move all remaining motions to a vote via email. This was a provision set out in the rules, and I decided to use it because I felt that voting on four out of 21 motions was very poor, and that we had a duty to our members to actually decide things. I would hope that in future NEC meetings we are left enough time to debate all the motions on the day.

What next?

Well, despite a lot of blocking attempts the NEC voted to support the NCAFC demonstration in November, promote Jeremy Corbyn’s EDM on maintenance grants, and organise two local demonstrations against Jo Johnson and Sajid Javid. I will be trying my best between now and the next NEC on September 10th to make sure those policies are faithfully implemented.

Jordan Kenny doesn’t speak for Bath students

This was originally posted by Bath Students Against Fees & Cuts – NCAFC has re-posted it at the request of that group. BSAFC is a group of students in Bath campaigning for free, accessible education!

BSAFC logoAt Bath Students Against Fees and Cuts, we were disappointed to observe University of Bath Students’ Union President Jordan Kenny’s behaviour over the last week. Firstly, he led the publication of a misleading open letter to the NUS NEC regarding recent events surrounding NUS affiliation to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and Coca Cola sponsorship of NUS events, and followed it up with a bizarre, self-aggrandising statement on his involvement in the NEC and his claims to represent the student voice.

The University of Bath students amongst us would like to make it clear that Kenny does not represent our views to the NUS NEC, and we do not believe that Bath SU had a mandate from students to issue the letter in question. We were amused to read of the importance Kenny places on accountability and representation, since we believe he has a record of ignoring the student voice and results of SU-run polls when the outcomes contradict his own opinions. Bath SU has no democratically elected executive to hold the SU officers to account and no general meetings where student members can vote on or inform SU policy – the very least you might expect from a so-called democratic organisation. Our calls for the establishment of a student council have been dismissed, while in the absence of any forum for discussion, the best the SU has been willing to offer are ‘indicative polls’, though it fails to advertise them and buries them inaccessibly within the SU webpage. Notably, despite 86% of respondents replying ‘yes’ to a poll asking whether Bath SU should support last year’s free education demo, the SU took no action. Perhaps Mr Kenny’s lack of exposure to democratic accountability at his own SU could explain his inability, or unwillingness, to understand it within the NUS.

A bit of background:

In August 2014, the NUS voted to become affiliated to the BDS movement, a campaign designed to increase economic and political pressure on Israel to end the occupation and colonization of Palestinian land. Coca Cola, represented by the Central Bottling Company Ltd in Israel, operates factories within illegal Israeli settlements, and thus Coca Cola products fall under the remit of BDS.

Whether BDS is an effective tactic in ending illegal Israeli occupations is much debated, but nonetheless, having passed the motion we believe the NUS should stand by it. However, the current president of the NUS, Megan Dunn, chose to ignore NUS policy and accepted Coca Cola sponsorship of the NUS annual awards ceremony.

As a direct result of her actions, a motion was passed at NUS NEC to censure the president, an action which represents a serious criticism and display of disapproval. BSAFC welcomed this news, as we believe union democracy deserves to be upheld and that officers should be held accountable for their actions. Jordan Kenny’s defence of an NUS president who wilfully ignores the voice of her organisation is a disappointing but unsurprising stance.

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