Left should unite to save NUS

Submitted by AWL on 23 January, 2019 - 10:06 Author: Maisie Sanders
2012 demo

The “Board” of the National Union of Students (NUS UK) voted on Wednesday 16 January to abolish the NUS Trans Campaign’s officer, committee and campaign budget.

The Society and Citizenship Vice President post has also been abolished, alongside International Officer, LGBT Women’s Place, and all of the Nations’ Vice Presidents.

NUS Liberation Officers have broken their silence over the democracy cuts and financial crisis to release a statement stating “The secrecy with which NUS has chosen to conduct the process of deciding which officer position is worthy of funding suggests that this is a political rather than a financial choice [...] the Trustee Board should not be setting the political direction of the organisation.”

NUS Trans Conference, on 30-­31 January in Manchester, will vote on a motion of no confidence in President Shakira Martin, who voted to scrap the Trans Officer. The Student Left Network will distribute a bulletin and Workers’ Liberty students will hold a fringe meeting on Brazil and the far right. Activists attending plan to hold unofficial elections for a Trans Campaign committee at the conference.

The NUS Liberation Officers will submit a motion of censure in the Trustee Board and Shakira Martin at every liberation conference in the run up to National Conference, where they will also seek to amend the budget to restore funding to the Trans Campaign. The Student Left Network called for the NUS NEC to vote no confidence in the Trustee Board before its most recent meeting.

SLN will also submit a motion of no confidence in Shakira Martin and the Trustee Board to National Conference in April. No NEC members have yet said they will vote no confidence in the Trustee Board. The NUS LGBT+ officers have also said they will not support a vote of no confidence in the President or Trustee Board at National Conference.

Motions of censure and model responses to the consultation are not enough on their own. It’s not sufficient to register passive protest in the face of the cutting of entire campaigns by a partially unelected body with no say from National Conference or any other democratic body. Students must use the only mechanism they have to hold the leadership to account and vote to remove those driving the antidemocratic coup.

A source has informed the Student Left Network that the Trustees plan to abolish the Block of 15 section of the NEC and drastically cut the length and size of conference: it is not clear if these proposals are still on the table. The Student Left Network are demanding NUS open the books immediately, and publish full minutes of all Trustee and NUS UK Board meetings.

All cuts already made must be reversed: all decisions about reform must be made by National Conference, not unelected Trustees. Cutbacks must first be made to the corporate-­style management structure and excessive salaries: the departing CEO was rumoured to have received an £80,000 pay off.

Student Left Network activists have been told that the left grouped around the leaderships of the liberation campaigns will not work with them and plan to run against SLN candidates in elections (so far Justine Canady, who is running for NUS President, with more to be announced). This is farcical at a time when the NUS right is allying with unelected senior management to cut democracy behind the backs of its members.

So far, no other candidates have launched their election campaigns. The NUS left must form a united front to save NUS democracy, with a joint slate to stop the cuts.

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