Monday, 15 April 2013

My voting record at NUS national conference 2013...

I was present for every motion, except for the final three in the union development zone, as my electronic voting pad broke and needed to be fixed in order to be used to recount some earlier close motions.
I've explained why I voted the way I did on the motions and amendments I feel were the most contentious, but if you’d like to ask about the reasoning behind any of my other votes, please do!
The motions document is available here:

Membership and Priority
Motion 001 – voted for
Motion 101 – voted for

Welfare zone
Motion 601 - voted for
Amendment 601a – voted for
Amendment 602a – voted for
Motion 602 - voted for
Amendment 602c – voted for
Amendment 602b – voted for
Amendment 603b – voted against
I voted against this amendment, because from talking to a lot of students, both FE and HE, at the conference but also beforehand, a lot of students really weren’t satisfied with EMA; it did not cater enough for a lot of students, while often giving money to students who did not need it. On the other hand, there were many students who would not have made it through college without EMA. This is why I voted for motion 602, which called for a more radical, creative and flexible alternative to EMA which caters to all students’ needs. I do not believe spending time and energy lobbying a government that isn’t listening to bring back EMA in its original form is a worthwhile time of NUS’s time, when we could be working on a better alternative which we can put on the agenda for the 2015 election.
Motion 603 – voted for
Amendment 603a – voted for
Amendment 603b – voted for
Amendment 603c – voted for, but voted to remove conference resolves 1
I voted to remove this part because it specified that no one should pay over £100 a week, and while this would be lovely, and I think reasonable for a place like Leeds, I don’t think that’s a possible or reasonable demand for more expensive parts of the country like London or Canterbury.
Amendment 603d – voted against
Although I think tenants unions are excellent, I do not see the need to create them for students, who are already represented by their students union, which should be fulfilling the role that a tenants union would normally.
Motion 604 – voted for
Motion 605 – voted for
Motion 611 – voted for the procedural motion that this should not be debated at this conference
Motion 612 – voted for
Amendment 612a – voted for
Motion 613 – voted for
Motion 614 – voted for
Motion 615 – voted for
Motion 616 – voted for
Motion 617 – voted for
Motion 618 – voted for
Motion 619 – voted for

Education zone
Motion 201 – voted for
Motion 202 – voted for
Motion 203 – voted for
Amendment 203a - voted for
Motion 204 – voted for
Motion 211 – voted for
Motion 212 – voted for
Motion 301 – voted for
Amendment 301a – voted for
Amendment 301b – voted for
Amendment 301c – voted for
Motion 302 – voted for
Motion 302a – voted for, but voted to remove conference resolves 1, 6 and 7
I voted against these parts, because, especially as a representative of Leeds University the idea of a “Take Back your campuses” campaign seemed strange and unnecessary to me; of course our union’s democracy is not perfect, but we are constantly working to try and improve it and I think the idea for this campaign was rather sweeping and geared a tackling problems that a lot of unions don’t have. I also voted against the idea that we should work alongside NCAFC; NCAFC is a faction with NUS which runs candidates, and I don’t think that NUS should be mandated to work alongside any faction which participates in its internal democracy.
Motion 303 – voted for
Motion 304 – voted for
Amendment 304a – voted against
Amendment 304b – voted against
Amendment 304c – voted against
I voted against these amendments because I simply don’t think free education is a realistic possibility right now, and I also don’t believe that, with our current structures, it would make university more accessible. Simply trying to lobby the government – or any government – for free education is a waste of time and resources that will get us nowhere, and we should be focusing on making sure university is accessible to all and that cost is not a barrier to any student. I voted against having another demo because right now I don’t think it’s an effective strategy; demo 2012, despite a great deal of effort from campuses across the country failed to bring in enough students, it wasn’t effective and there are better ways for NUS to keep fighting for students.
Motion 311 – voted for
Amendment 311a – voted against
Motion 312 – voted for
Motion 312a – voted for
Motion 313 – voted for
Motion 314 – voted for
Motion 315 – voted for
Motion 316 – voted for
Motion 317 – voted for
Motion 318 – voted for
Motion 319 – voted for
Motion 320 – voted for
Amendment 320a – voted for
Motion 321 – voted for
Motion 322 – voted for
Motion 323 – voted for
Motion 324 – voted for

Union development
Motion 501 – voted for
Amendment 501a – voted for
Amendment 501b – voted for
Amendment 501c – voted for
Motion 502 – voted for
Amendment 502a – voted for
Amendment 502b – voted against
I voted against this, primarily because it’s implication of general meetings as a preferred model for union democracy is at odds with the experiences of Leeds University Union, and with the democratic structures we use, which work for us.
Amendment 502c – voted against
Although I do not think it’s right or democratic to have external trustees voting on trustee boards, I voted against this amendment because I think the decision should be that of the individual Student Unions, not NUS.
Motion 503 – voted for
Amendment 503a – voted for
Amendment 503b – voted for
There was some discussion here about whether it’s right to target unions in swing seats; although I do not believe any union should simply fall off the radar in terms of increasing student voter turnout, I agree with the amendment that we have to be realistic with our time and resources and target to them to where the student vote can make the most difference.
Motion 511 – voted for
Motion 512 – voted against
I voted against this motion because of its preference for a style of union democracy built around General Meetings and councils (although councils are not specified as mandatory by the motion, General Meetings are). This is not the model we have at Leeds, nor a model that I think would work for Leeds, and I do not think NUS should prescribe ridged democratic structures on Students Unions which will all have different structures which work best for them.
Motion 513 – was unable to vote because my electronic voting pad was being fixed, but would have voted for the procedural motion that this not be debated at conference as it’s a matter for the disabled students campaign, which passed.
Motion 514 – was unable to vote because my electronic voting pad was being fixed, but would have voted for (motion passed)
Motion 515 - was unable to vote because my electronic voting pad was being fixed, but would have voted for (motion passed)

Society and Citizenship
Motion 401 – voted for
Motion 401a – voted for
Motion 402 – voted for
Motion 402a – voted for

Annual General Meeting
Amendment to estimates CTE1 – voted against
The task of the NEC is not and should not be to travel round student unions; although it is great if they can, their primary task should be scrutiny of the work of the full time officers, therefore dedicating money to a travel fund for them, I don’t think, is a valuable use of resources.
Motion 701 – voted for
I don’t want this to turn into a rant. So I’ll just say that I’m really disappointed this motion fell. This motion was not about giving women an unfair advantage; it was about correcting the unfair disadvantage they already face in society. The majority of people in education are women but the majority of delegates are consistently men and it’s just not right.
Motion 702 – voted for
Amendment 702a – voted against

My thoughts on NUS national conference 2013...

NUS national conference 2013 was my first time at an NUS conference. Overall, I found it an incredibly positive experience; in fact the more I think about it the more I feel invigorated and excited about the student movement and proud to be a part of it.
From working on a better alternative to EMA to raising awareness about mental health to increasing student voter turnout in elections to fighting for proper careers education in schools and against the reforms to GCSEs and A levels, some really excellent motions passed. The quality of the discourse was really high and there were some fantastic speeches from delegates. I really enjoyed the zone reports, which reminded me that for all its faults NUS does some incredible work, and I think the motions we passed at conference put NUS on course to continue doing great work, research and campaigning that helps students on a day to day level.
My biggest disappointment of the conference was that motion 701 fell. I understand all the issues with gender quotas, and I honestly wish we didn’t need them, but we do. Even mainstream political parties use them…even the Tory party uses them! NUS should stop fantasising that all we need to do is encourage more women to get involved. Frankly, it was really patronising to hear delegates stand up and say that delegates should be elected “on merit”. The fact that only about 30% of delegates to conference are, on average, women, despite women making up the majority of students is not because of merit, it’s because of our societal structures which disadvantages woman. I’m angry that a floor made up of mostly men voted against this motion, but I’m also angry at the women who voted against. To get elected as a woman is awesome, but it doesn’t mean you can leave other women behind. The main losers from this motion falling were the women who should have been at conference but, because of the way of society is structured, weren’t. Oh, and to all the delegates who didn’t get out of bed in time to vote for the motion; what the hell?!
Rant over.
In better women related news, I’m thrilled NUS elected a woman as its president (and also thrilled her main opponent was a woman…go women!). Toni Pearce is quite simply fantastic in every way, and will be an incredible president. That she is NUS’s first president from FE is as wonderful as it is shocking; the majority of NUS’s membership is FE students, and it shouldn’t have taken us this long to get here. But at least we have now. The number of FE delegates at this conference (many of whom I had the pleasure of hanging out with) is a tribute to the work Toni and Vice Presidents have done before her to engage FE students with NUS.
I’m also thrilled that Joe Vinson was elected Vice President Further Education, Dom Anderson Vice President Society and Citizenship, Rachael Mattey Vice President Union Affairs, Colum McGuire Vice President Welfare and that Rachel Wenstone was reelected as Vice President Higher Education. They are going to make a fantastic team.
I still think NUS needs to do a far better job at reaching out to ordinary students. As a delegate, I did my best to consult students about the motions I was voting on, but it’s difficult to create that engagement, especially when what you’re sending them is a god knows how many page document. I can’t pretend I have all the answers, but it starts with NUS being more present on our campuses. NUS needs to go to students because students aren’t going to go to them. I was really pleased to see full time students like Rhiannon Durrans and Ben Dilks standing for Block of 15; it’s good to have someone other than sabbs (nothing against sabbs, but…) standing, and I hope to see more of this in future.
NUS is very factional, and I don’t think this is a completely bad thing. I agree with what Liam Burns said in his leaving speech; factions are about students coming together and organising around shared beliefs to put those beliefs into practice and that’s a good and admirable thing to do. But though I do think factions are a force for good, there needs to be a way into NUS for students who don’t ascribe to this factions or that faction.
There were also some quite serious access problems at this conference; most notably the length of the days. It was hard for me to maintain concentration but for students with certain disabilities it would have been close to impossible. Additionally, with issues such as whooping and clapping in the middle of speeches, the importance of not doing things like this should have been outlined clearly at the beginning. The chairs (who all did a fantastic job, by the way) did keep reminding people throughout, but as they hadn’t been told properly in the first place I can sympathise with delegates who were confused and didn’t fully understand why they were being told not to clap and cheer.
None the less, it was fascinating to final see the sovereign body of NUS in action, and I would defiantly encourage anyone who wants to to run to be a delegate. Sitting through slightly more procedural motions than you would like (to note I think the Democratic Procedural Committee did an excellent job, and I certainly do not envy them!) is worth it to get to be part of setting the direction of the student movement.