Union hacks will be feeling a sense of de ja vu this week as they send delegates off tomorrow to an NUS Extraordinary Conference in Wolverhampton to discuss NUS Reform. A similar conference, held in Leicester in 2007, resulted in an overwhelming majority vote to throw out the current constitution in favour of a more efficient, better governed National Union. However, the motion failed to be ratified during a second vote at the 2008 National Conference. ICU subsequently decided to leave the NUS in a post conference referendum which has been described by other Unions as a knee-jerk reaction.
Imperial have not paid the affiliation fee for this academic year but their voting rights extend until the end of the calendar year. This means that tomorrow's conference is likely tp be Imperial's last chance to vote on the issue of reform. Unlike previous Conferences ICU Delegates have not been set a mandate by Union Council, presumably because the future of the NUS now has little relevance to us as we will not be a part of it. This apathy has also shown in the enthusism of students to attend conference. The deadline for registering delgates passed at 5pm yesterday with Live! believing that we have been unable to find a full delegation.
You Said - We Listened
One of the biggest criticisms of the original NUS White Paper is that it was too confusing and had not been properly explained to the delegates and 'normal students' who were being asked to vote for it. In a speach to the 2008 National Conference, NEC member Sofie Buckland gave the most convincing argument against NUS Reform by simply urging people: "If you haven't read it, don't vote for it!" This time round the NUS Officers spearheading the campaign for reform are pushing the slogan 'You Said - We Listened' in an attempt to show that the proposals have been adapted and changed to encompass the views and requirements of a more diverse range of NUS members. Over 400 written submissions from delegates and 500 Student Officers have been involved in changing the original proposals into those which will be voted on tomorrow.
The majority of the changes appear to be 'clarifications' of points that delegates had not understood the first time round. Wording and nomenclature has been simplified with the bodies of NUS Senate, NUS Board and NUS Congress being changed back to National Executive Committee, Trustee Board and National Conference. An assurance that Conference will not be reduced to a one-day celebration and will still be a minimum of three days has also been added.
The reforms still face opposition, with the National Union's Full-time Officers still unable to come to an agreement. Live!'s favourite NUS Officer, Bellavia Ribeiro-Addy, has spoken out against the proposals. Bell expresses in her blog, "the grave concerns of the Black Students? Campaign at the impact the proposed governance review will have on black students? representation in NUS. The proposals would exclude the Black Students Officer from the most powerful decision-making body in NUS, and end the guarantee of representation for black students at every level of NUS."
Bell raises many concerns about the proposals and processes that have been used to produce an "almost identical version of the 'governance review'". Live! wonders if she missed the memo when the above document was created as it answers most of her questions. Perhaps she is of the oppinion that listening to a clarification of an opposing view would inhibit the NUS' way of deciding policy based on who shouts the loudest or wears the most garish t-shirts.