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NUS Votes for Reform Again .. Sort Of

Nov 12 2008 17:30
Ashley Brown
This afternoon's NUS Extraordinary Conference has voted once again for reform, however with a change or two - it must still be ratified by a further conference.
Photos aren't normally allowed inside, so here's a good approximation of most conferences

This afternoon the NUS was once again attempting to reform itself, at an extraordinary conference in Wolverhampton. In contrast to last year's extraordinary conference, it appears to have been a very civilised affair, although a number of changes went through. Conference eventually voted in favour of the revised reform proposals by 614 votes to 142, easily meeting the 2/3 majority needed to change the constitution.

The decision must be ratified at a second conference, either a further Extraordinary Conference or at Annual Conference in April. In either case, Imperial will play no further part in the process due to our disaffiliation.

The reforms originally eased the requirements for delegates to Annual Conference to be elected by cross-campus ballot, however this has been reversed. Proposals to allow elected officers - who typically receive many times the number of votes of NUS delegates - to automatically qualify for conference failed to pass.

The controversial Trustee Board remains intact, with the Black Students campaign failing in its attempt to have an automatic seat for all liberation campaigns on the supposedly apolitical board. The board's function is to ensure the NUS remains financially viable and acts within the law, which led to concerns that it could simply throw out anything it did not like. This was clarified, with the Annual Conference able to refer items back to the Trustee Board if it disagrees with their decision. A proposal to remove external trustees was also defeated, meaning the 'safety net' committee will be recruiting from outside the student movement.

Attempts by far left groups to kill off the talk of reform once and for all were rejected again, along with a number of other amendments. A proposal to force conference delegations to be 50% female was thrown out - the amendment noted that over 50% of students are women, but the same does not apply to conference delegations. It should be noted that despite Imperial's gender imbalance, the last conference delegation was almost a 50/50 split.

One other amendment of note aimed to stop ratification of the reforms occurring at a second extraordinary conference, instead requiring that the Annual Conference be the one to approve the changes. However, this was also rejected, fuelling speculation that reforms will be 'forced through' by holding an additional extraordinary conference, for which delegates do not need to be selected by cross-campus ballot.

Reports from Imperial's delegates indicate it was a civilised affair, and the margin by which the reforms passed is more convincing than the last attempt.

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Discussion about “NUS Votes for Reform Again .. Sort Of”

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
Nov 12 2008 18:18

The devil is in the detail. If the changes were minor then good. If it was decided that the Trustee Board should be exclusively student and full of lunatic liberation officers then that is pretty bad.

Nov 12 2008 18:33

Just updated it with details from the ground - trustee board stays the same. Loonies defeated.

However (if we were still in the NUS), our sabbs would still have to stand in a cross-campus election (where they would get about 150 votes) despite getting 500-1,500 in their sabb elections.

Although the fact that sabbs often do badly in delegate elections might indicate that they shouldn't automatically get in!

Nov 13 2008 14:06

'Loonies defeated?'

What was that about things being civilised?

As a person with mental health problems, I find your elitist comment offensive.

Though not surprising.

'However, our sabbs would still have to stand in a cross-campus election (where they would get about 150 votes) despite getting 500-1,500 in their sabb elections.'

Crivvens! We're actually having to be elected? We won that beauty contest last year - shouldn't that give us anti-democratic privileges over these rank-and-file oiks in matters that were not discussed during said contest? BAWWW BAWWW

Nov 13 2008 14:21

"As a person with mental health problems, I find your elitist comment offensive."

I'm sure you do. I suspect you find the use of the word gay to mean "rubbish" offensive too. Language changes. Besides, this is a well-known usage.

Nov 13 2008 14:22

Nice selective quoting there, ignoring that my third sentence indicated that automatically giving sabbs a place might not be that sensible.

I respect your right to be offended at my comment.

Nov 13 2008 14:53

'I suspect you find the use of the word gay to mean "rubbish" offensive too.'

Indeed I do.

'Language changes.'

The word 'faggot' (and, to a lesser extent, 'n****r') is increasingly being used to mean 'foolish person' rather than 'LGBT person I irrationally hate' (or 'Black person I irrationally hate/fellow Black member of gang culture'). I suppose that makes it OK to throw around?

That said, I often use the phrase 'stuck-up toff c*** who'll be first against the wall' - so I suppose it's swings and roundabouts, really.

I am glad that you are no longer to be seen in NUS, and I sympathise with those LGBT people and people with mental health problems who have the misfortune to make your acquaintance.

'Nice selective quoting there, ignoring that my third sentence'

I was agreeing with your criticism of them.

Nov 13 2008 14:54

'I was agreeing with your criticism of them.'

In which case I apologise for assuming otherwise.

Nov 13 2008 14:57

it is offensive to use the word gay to mean rubbish you asshole.

just because "it is a well known usage" doesn't mean it isn't offensive

Nov 13 2008 15:01

The motion to make it go to annual conference was decided by steering committee to delete all the reform proposals. So when conference voted against that motion it didn't vote against the concept it should go to annual conference, but against throwing the whole thing out and going home.

Nov 13 2008 15:05

If I refer to Respect et al as 'straight' (meaning completely farcical, more than a little incompetent and generally a waste of space) will anybody get offended?

Nov 13 2008 15:08

That sounds like a pretty atrocious manipulation of the system to force reforms through.

Having seeing some pretty cynical manipulation of things last year, I was almost on the verge of voting against reform simply because of the way it was being done. It would have been interesting to see how much support there was in the room for forcing it to go to annual conference.

12. Loony   
Nov 13 2008 15:19

'Having seeing some pretty cynical manipulation of things last year'

It's far worse this year.

Union leaders were sent an email on 06/10/08 asking them to support the new constitution and mandate their union's delegates to do so. The document in question was not published for almost a week after this date, yet union leaders still forced through a mandate to support this document they could not have possibly read.

The conference was called with three weeks' notice, which simply is not time for the majority of unions to run elections and organise debates - many officers simply appointed themselves delegates on the justification you described above. Extraordinary Conferences are inaccessible to less wealthy unions.

Dave Lewis - the one who was publicly exposed as a liar a year ago when squawking about the critics of the review - "accidentally" sent a pro-review email to all delegates.

And of course, the whole event itself was once again stage-managed by the review's architects.

Do the review's architects really intend to improve democracy? Their actions speak far louder than words.

Nov 13 2008 15:50

I've said before that I don't think reform will help much, as it's a culture change that is needed, however I was broadly supportive of what the reforms were trying to do.

I'd just like to see them go through without dirty tricks on EITHER side. Not that I'm that bothered now Imperial isn't spending oodles of money on it.

It's tricky though, as the anti-reformists don't seem to have a different model in mind that would solve the problems (not to say the current reform package will).

Nov 13 2008 15:58

Was there a justification from steering as to why the amendment to send it to conference should delete all reform proposals?

15. Loony?   
Nov 13 2008 16:09

'the anti-reformists don't seem to have a different model in mind that would solve the problems'

Do you mean critics of the review? Because I haven't met a critic of the review that uncritically supports things as they are.

How are the critics supposed to draft an entire model new constitution on their own, bereft of the resources available to the NUS leadership?

What the critics are arguing is that the drafting process is completely closed off. We're saying that this process needs to be open and accessible, not done over summer (when students are not around) by an unelected committee (with openness and accountability based on the honour system) who abuse their NUS positions to propagandise for the review (Dave Lewis, I'm looking at YOU) and with debates on the review chaired by its supporters.

These criticisms have gone completely ignored by the architects of the review. No matter how many times they slightly re-writes the same document, as long as they use this absurdly undemocratic model of "consultation" it will always produce the same result - all power to the Blairites and their unaccountable, self-selecting Board of cronies.

So yes, the review's critics do have a different model in mind - one which goes right back to the first step of how one writes a review in a balanced and impartial manner. As long as the leadership keeps on relying on such maneuvering to cut off grassroots students rather than have a fair debate, their critics will continue opposing them.

Nov 13 2008 16:22

The 'resources' the NUS has thrown at the review has hardly produced anything revolutionary. Critics of the review must have some idea of where the problems are and how they think they should be changed. If they spent less time arguing amongst themselves and whinging, they could probably have come up with some plan. You don't need to produce a full constitution, just a vision of how the organisation would work, and how those changes would make things better. If it's sensible, it can be refined into a proper constitution by anyone with a reasonable grasp of English.

'cut off grassroots students'

You mean 'grassroots activists'. Most students don't care - they want to have fun, get a degree and get out. The tension will always be between those who think that 'grassroots activists' (elected by 60 people) are representative of the majority of students and those who think that union officers (elected by hundreds or thousands of people) are representative of normal students. I do appreciate the hypocrisy of that statement, falling in the 'union officer' camp.

Neither is right - if you want to know what normal students think, you need to ask all of them. And you won't get decent a turnout, because lots (most?) of them don't care.

17. Tinter   
Nov 13 2008 16:50

It was a fairly manipulative thing- a number of amendments had been decided to delete all of the reforms without having been submitted intending to do so. For the record I did vote for governance so this isn't bitterness speaking. I belive bubble (national sec) spoke as to why it should delete everything, but I do not recall anything he said meriting the term argument. Conference did vote not to change the interrelationships (that is, they voted that is should delete anything) so it probably would have fell anyway- though that could have just been "if national sec says these procedural motion is correct it must be so" thinking.

On mandates- I have heard this a couple of times. However, can anyone provide a list of: 1- unions who mandates delegates 2- delegates who would have votes differently if not for the mandate? I am against mandates but I think it made no difference this time.

The lack of ballots meaning that in some places where the left might get 1,2,3 delegates to annual they got noone is a valid complaint, as is unions unable to attend due to costs.

18. Tinter   
Nov 13 2008 16:55

Also, my apologies for horrible grammar in the above post...

19. Loony!   
Nov 13 2008 17:08

'Most students don't care - they want to have fun, get a degree and get out.'

What they DON'T want to do is end up with a debt of ?22K+ at the end of it. Here's what happens regarding education funding:

Local union officers dominate conference and elect a Blairite NUS leadership, which blocks calls for campaigning against fees; NUS does not campaign against fees; students don't see any expression of their political concerns from NUS; students lose interest in NUS, and the circle is complete.

Local union leadership is dominated by careerists who won a beauty contest on the basis of the size of their society/sports club, have not got a clue about campaigning, and just want a quiet year or two getting comfy with uni management; students don't see any expression of their political concerns from their union; students lose interest in their union; exec elections are met with disinterest, and the circle is complete.

It's a vicious cycle, one which the left seeks to break and the bureaucracy seeks to entrench. There's your alternative 'vision of how the organisation would work, and how those changes would make things better' right there - play a leading role in organising mass campaigns which draw in more students to playing an active role in NUS, instead of marginalising anyone who thinks that writing postcards to politicians is a somewhat weak strategy as a dangerous radical. It is NUS's actions, not words, which are most in need of reform to make the organisation more accessible.

'can anyone provide a list of: 1- unions who mandates delegates 2- delegates who would have votes differently if not for the mandate?'

Not one day after the event, no. But it did happen at National Conference last year - indeed, Wes himself screamed blue murder at those delegates who ignored the squawking of their officers and voted with their consciences.

20. Tinter   
Nov 13 2008 17:24

Sure- although that didn't stop some left unions mandating their delegates the other way. However, it didn't change the result in either case.

I have heard of only one or two unions being mandates on wednesday, and these did not send any delegates likely to oppose the reforms in any case.

Nov 13 2008 17:32

If you wanted to see "grass roots" activism in action then you should have been hear last summer when we had our referendum to disaffiliate from the National Union of Socialists!

How many Unions run by loony lefties (if thats a bit un PC then I'll meet you half way and describe them as "bipolar progressives") have ever gotten over 1800 students to take part in a democratic exercise during the 2nd last week of summer term?

The general consensus at Imperial was (from the grass roots up) that NUS was toss. It is good to see that progress is being made on the Governance Review and if all the Trots take their placards somewhere else then we might just come back.

22. Tinter   
Nov 13 2008 17:55

Not very many unions are run by lefties of the type you describe.

If you want to pretend the NUS and all its supportive unions are somehow trots, then rather a lot get thousands to participate.

Most of them don't hold democratic votes at that time of year because why the hell would anyone? "NUS disaffiliation fees deadline" is the only reason that comes to mind.

Nov 13 2008 18:03

And what a good reason that is!

?50k in our pockets - that is almost enough to fund a national demo! ;)

24. Tinter   
Nov 13 2008 18:07

Wasn't starting an argument over it, just pointing outit was a stupid question.

Nov 13 2008 18:15

> Local union leadership is dominated by careerists

I presume you refer to careerist politicians, as opposed to people who want a career rather than being eternal students? That's a rather cynical view (I know, I'm a hypocrite). Of the people I've met from other universities, I'd only describe a few as 'careerists'. The others have successfully been rehabilitated into the community. And amongst those I would call careerists, an equal number have been 'bureaucrats' and 'activists'. Given that the left manage to put forward the same faces for year after year, with their people moving to different universities and taking part in further learning, could some of those not be described as 'careerists'?

> who won a beauty contest on the basis of the size

> of their society/sports club

You don't trust your electorate? The people who are involved most in our union are those taking part in clubs and societies. They vote, so elect people they know to senior positions. What's wrong with that?

> have not got a clue about campaigning,

I know the left sometimes find this hard to believe, but waving placards is not necessarily the way to go. As a last resort, perhaps. It is actually possible to *talk* to people in university management.

> and just want a quiet year or two getting

> comfy with uni management

Some do, some don't. That's a sweeping generalisation surely? In my view, the NUS (and many local unions) lack the functioning student media required to hold them to account when they do get a bad batch though.

And yes, I realise I'm also often guilty of sweeping generalisations about a lot of things, including 'the left'.

Assuming the NUS is restructured to campaign, what do you do if you win the fees debate? Start a campaign about something else? 'Bunch of whinging, scrounging students' would surely be the response?

Nov 13 2008 18:37

'How many Unions run by loony lefties have ever gotten over 1800 students to take part in a democratic exercise during the 2nd last week of summer term?'

Right now, you won't find a union with a leadership of left-wing activists organising a comparable meeting, so your question is utterly moot.

That said, there are unions with such leaderships which sustain regular large meetings - which is a better indication of students being interested in their unions than the attendance of a one-off "shall we do something this one time that's extremely controversial".

Nov 13 2008 21:58

You're right that most individuals or sabbs against the review don't have the resources.

Then again, Aled from LSE managed to write a fairly detailed version of his own/comments and improvements. It can be done, provided they spent less time fighting amongst each other..

Nov 13 2008 22:10

Imperial disaffiliating from NUS isn't exactly unheard of!

It wasn't exactly a hard sell. Spend ?50k on anything but left wing irrelevance!

All in favour.....

Nov 14 2008 09:23

The NUS will never work for Imperial as long as it remains a national, inclusive Union (and it probably should remain as such).

Imperial is an elitist university, its students are elitist, its staff are elitist. We work our asses off because we want to be among the best.

We anticipate earning enough so that "?22k of debt" is not a significant concern for many of us, with an Imperial degree under your belt, it's economically worth it in the long-term.

We don't have time to indulge in idealist left-wing politics, and why would we want to support a system which seeks to undermine our achievements and normalise us against a depressing backdrop of homogeneous "workers".

With respect to liberation campaigns, again, less relevant. I've never experienced homophobia at Imperial (am openly gay) and have never seen anyone be the victim of racism or any other form of prejudice. Imperial students are just too evolved [/slightly tongue-in-cheek].

The NUS can never be relevant to Imperial as long as it has in its mandate to represent the bottom half of the league tables too.

30. Hmm.   
Nov 14 2008 10:20

"We anticipate earning enough so that "?22k of debt" is not a significant concern for many of us, with an Imperial degree under your belt, it's economically worth it in the long-term."

OK, that goes a bit far on the generalisations. A fair few of use want to be "among the best" in academia/research rather than leave science for high-paid city jobs.

Rather than saying 22K of debt is no problem, we argue that more funding should be directed towards expensive-but-useful degrees than others.

With you on the rest, though.

Nov 14 2008 11:57

"The NUS can never be relevant to Imperial as long as it has in its mandate to represent the bottom half of the league tables too."

This might be true in some areas, but in many aspects of the welfare and education work NUS does it's irrelevant. Whther you're at Imperial or TVU makes no difference to a bogus landlord. The NSS asks the same questions to all students. All students are exempt from council tax.

Imperial is different, but not quite as radically as you might like to believe.

Nov 14 2008 12:26

Add to that members of the general public. Bogus landlords dont care if you are a student or not so the argument that we need NUS for that is a bit thin.

The NSS is good for getting a few headlines but it is not particularly useful for obtaining useful insights in to life at the College. Besides, Live has already exposed how sub-standard "so-called Universities" have been encouraging their students to abuse this survey so their degrees look better.

Governance review or not, whilst the NUS continues to argue for mediocrity for all at the expense of excellent Universities like Imperial don't expect their popularity in South Kensington to inccrease. There is a pecking order of Universities and it is about time NUS dealt with that and operated within that framework rather than attempting to undermime the best universities out of nothing more than socialist spite.

Nov 14 2008 12:48

The NUS is morribund and has completely forgotten who it represents. If they campaigned for helping students with rent or better careers advisory services etc then students might care more, but instead there is political infighting that is counterproductive.

I think that Imperial is so anti-NUS simply because it doesn't represent us, and many other unions are following suit.

What has been forgotten is that the NUS represent the students; INCLUDING LEFT OR RIGHT WING, whether we like it or not.

Reading both Ashley's and Loony's posts it is clear that without mutual respect of each others opinions we will go nowhere...

34. Tinter   
Nov 14 2008 16:18

Robert: Care to say which universities unions are looking to disaffiliate? Because I can't think of any right now, and I think I am probably more informed on NUS matters than you.

Actually I can think of a couple of Trot-led unions that are threating to if governance passes, but somehow I don't think thats what you meant.

NUS does campaign on those issues. It does this through lobbying, meetings, drafting proposals to government and so forth. It appears when NUS does demonstrations ect they are loopy trots, and when they do the kind of campaigning you prefer you don't notice and act as if they are inactive.

Nov 19 2008 11:46

I'm so glad we've left - what a waste of time

36. me too   
Nov 20 2008 14:40

I agree

37. This post has been deleted.
Nov 20 2008 15:02
38. This post has been deleted.
Nov 20 2008 15:10
39. This post has been deleted.
Nov 21 2008 01:49

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