NUS Conference Day 2: Conference I am appalled
The time is currently 18:33, I am currently sat on the first floor in the lobby reflecting on what has been a hugely controversial day in the student movement. Yesterday was fairly uncontroversial apart from some heated debates regarding Brexit, free speech and anti-Semitism. My report from Day one can be found here. Alongside Keele delegates, I attended the UV Party at Strathclyde SU last night. Spirits were high, apple sourz was consumed and the factional debate was left on the conference floor rather than the dancefloor.
Let’s Start With The Basics
Shakira Martin was re-elected as NUS President after seeing off competition from Sahaya James and Momin Saqib to secure her position for another year. In all honesty, the result was not a surprise. Speaking with some of Shakira’s campaign team it was clear that they were confident but not complacent of a victory. Shakira received 352 votes, Momin 168, Sahaya 104 and RON 66.
This Is Where Things Got Interesting
The nature of National Conference means that students and students’ unions submit dozens of motions in the hope that they will be passed and adopted in to NUS policy. Motions are split in to the following categories: Union Development, Higher Education, Further Education, Welfare and Society + Citizenship. Ultimately, only ONE motion related to Welfare was passed meaning that key debates regarding the decriminalisation of sex work and abortion laws in Northern Ireland were not heard. As a result, NUS LGBT+ Officer Beth Douglas and NUS LGBT+ Officer (open place) Noorulann Shahid took to the stage in protest and encouraged delegates to join them.
Ultimately, 150 delegates from a variety of political backgrounds took to the stage in solidarity and protest as well. Passionate speeches were heard from the stage and ‘Solidarity forever’ rang around the conference centre. Delegates remained on the stage for around 20 minutes before everyone was told to leave the venue. Occupiers remained on the stage as a deal was struck and a resolution was made. This whole process took around 2 hours and at 17.15 delegates were invited to the keynote speaker as the conference floor is due to open again at 19:00 with a revised agenda. We do not know who the Vice-Presidents for Higher Education, Further Education or Union Development will be despite hearing their speeches a solid 4 hours ago.
But what does all of this mean? The occupation of the stage was a clear attack on NUS’ democratic processes. It is not possible to hear dozens of important motions in such a short period of time and this needs urgent attention. Delegates do not have faith in the National Executive Committee (NEC) and why should they? How can such a small committee make decisions on behalf of 7 million students?
Consequently, chaos reigned and a lot of important motions were not discussed. I personally think we should stand in solidarity with Students’ Unions who spent a long of money to be here and Students’ Unions who did not have their voices and motions heard. No matter what side you are on, or how engaged/disengaged you are with national student politics this should NOT have happened.
This is just my take on things. It’s worth checking out the #NUSConference hashtag to make up your own mind. I am hoping that the rest of the conference runs smoothly. But, who knows what the remaining hours of conference will bring.