Originally published Apr 1 2008 16:47. All photos courtesy of Elizabeth Hyde.
The NUS was plunged into confusion today, after the reforms initially passed at Extraordinary Conference in December fell at the final hurdle, but with no mandate from Conference on what to do next.
Last year's Conference saw a call for a wide-ranging Governance Review, which was passed by 2/3 majority in December, but required a further 2/3 majority this time round for ratification. Opponents to the review, who claim it was an undemocratic sham and would reduce representation for minorities, achieved a "wrecking majority", felling the reforms by just 25 votes.
Imperial's 9 delegates were mandated to vote for the reforms, however Camilla Royle voted with the "Student Respect" line to oppose the ratification. Many other delegates at other universities also broke their mandates and a number of delegates abstained, making the small loss all the more galling for those in favour of the review. A total of 717 of the 1075 votes were required to pass it, with only 692 being achieved. A call for a recount had to be refused due to a breakdown in communication which allowed delegates to leave the hall.
Key members of the NUS Executive Committee have been describing the NUS as a failing organisation, when trying to push the reforms through. Several unions have expressed a desire to hold disaffiliation referenda, although the NEC called several times for people to stay in and have another go, barely an hour after describing the reforms as having taken 20 years already.
A rather distraught-looking NUS President, Gemma Tumelty, took to the stage following the vote, saying she "didn't want to have to be [there] right now". She said that she felt the result was, in her view, wrong and will return NUS to "irrelevant, factional infighting". Members of the NEC have expressed a desire to try again.
Adding to the confusion was a set of later motions calling for rejection of the Governance Review - these all required a simple majority to pass, but fell as only 36% of delegates had supported rejecting the review in the first place. Consequently the NUS has not passed the reforms, but not rejected the process which led to them either, so no further review has been called for.
Imperial is likely to have a disaffiliation referendum during the summer or autumn terms, as both sides of the affiliation referendum were calling for reform and the margin of victory was small. The outcome of this may well depend on alternative reforms put forward by those opposed to the review.
Further fodder for disaffiliation campaigns at Imperial and UCL will occur tomorrow, as both institutions oppose plans for a national bursary scheme. The scheme seeks to take money from affiliation fees and distribute it around the country, leading to institutions such as Imperial - one of the few to spend most of its bursary allocation - potentially passing money elsewhere.