Half time at NUS Conference 2019

It’s half time at NUS National Conference 2019, so we thought we’d round up some of the key votes and decisions taken so far.

After the usual formalities, the event kicked off by using some procedural gerrymandering to shift a vote on a couple of motions to the top of the agenda without any debate. Motion 402 was on Islamophobia calling on NUS to adopt the definition of Islamophobia as laid out by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Islamophobia. The APPG report is an interesting read – and the definition the motion refers to can be found on page 50.

Immediately afterwards conference agreed to vote on an emergency motion it had not seen, let alone debated. It calls on NUS to re-affirm its commitment to tackling antisemitism on campus, and mndates NUS FTOs and NEC members to undergo antisemitism training provided by the Union of Jewish Students at the start of each academic year.

Vote for me

After a block of reports from full-time officers, all of the elections for those positions were held in a lengthy block. Zamzam Ibrahim (a former sabb from Salford) was elected as the new National President – drawing inspiration from youth climate strikes, she promised a National Student Strike. Claire Sosienski Smith (Cambridge) took the Higher Education Vice Presidency, on a Divest, Decolonise, Democratise ticket. Both are being seen as major shifts to the left of NUS’ political spectrum.

Another candidate on the “liberation left” slate, Juliana Mohamad-Noor (City of Liverpool College), took VP FE promising to fight for Further Education – albeit on a dramatically lower turnout than in recent years, with only around 100 delegates from colleges on the floor. And Eva Crossan Jory (Goldsmiths) was easily re-elected as NUS’ VP Welfare.

With no vice president for society and citizenship to elect this year (the post had been frozen in emergency savings measures) the final and closest election was Union Development. The winner was Erica Ramos (Middlesex), whose tubthumping speech held nothing back a critique of NUS’ “Totum” card project.

Rejection

The evening saw a debate on the report of the NUS Trustee Board. Perhaps rather symbolically, first sections were referred back – and then eventually the board rejected outright. Then in a debate on NUS’ budget, challenges were accepted that in theory re-allocate funding to postgraduate work, and a full time salary for an NUS Trans Officer in the year ahead.

Constitutionality

The morning of Day Two has been dominated by a large NUS reform motion. New articles and rules are being proposed, with a total of sixteen separate amendments to be debated. A largely symbolic amendment argued “we cannot place the blame for poor corporate governance on student volunteers” and was agreed. Another largely symbolic amendment sought to recognise apprentices – particularly those enrolled with private training providers – as students.

More interesting and fundamental amendments were then debated. One seeking to retain the current size of conference was passed – which sits problematically alongside a budget for Conference 2020 that if half that of this year. It had been proposed to remove the requirement to elect delegates to the event by a ballot and to “gender balance” delegations, but both were amended back in. Then after a largely symbolic (but familiar) debate on “No Platform” policies, an amendment seeking to retain the National Executive Council was narrowly defeated. It is expected that a more focussed and cheaper “National Scrutiny Council” will be approved after the break.

More amendments are to come that seek to retain full time liberation officers, budgets for the “NUS Sections” and retaining the Full Time Trans officer. On the face of it, this is not an event that has any particular thirst for cuts to liberation work or democracy. Someone somewhere will doubtless be totting up the cost of the amendments so far – and if the motion eventually passes, the question will be whether the whole process has been worth it.

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