NUStransNUS Conference is hijacked annually by politicos wanting to discuss everything from polar bears to Palestine.  Student focused policy such as that passed to establish the National Association of Student Societies and Activities goes without debate and follow-up left by the wayside. Dan Leedham weighs in.

At every University across the country, thousands of students get stuck in with hundreds of societies, many of which outsize and out perform even those found at Loughborough. As societies admit anyone with an interest to join, they form the basis for a whole host of liberation work done by students, from national politics to the environment, supporting real ale to motorcar racing.

At the National Union of Students’ National Conference last year, VP: Societies 2013-14 Georgia Cheyne tabled policy encouraging the formation of a national association that would recognize the work done by Societies and Activities across the country.

Amendment 416b National Student Associations

Amendment Action: Addamendment to 416
Submitted by: Loughborough Students’ Union

Conference believes:

1. It is positive that a number of independent national associations exist to promote areas of student activity such as National Association of Student Television Association (NaSTA) and National Student Fundraising Association (NaSFA).

Conference resolves:

2. To support and encourage the formation of a National Association of Student Societies and Activities (NASSA) and support the establishment of associated awards.
3. To support the development of a national accreditation brand of ‘Societies Stripes’ awarded for individual recognition for outstanding contribution towards student Societies and Activities.’

When Label caught up with VP: Societies Elect, Jenna Holmes, she praised the policy but raised concerns about the way it had not been implemented:

I am completely behind Georgia’s policies, Rag and Media have their national awards but are vastly smaller sections in numbers and participation. Societies which in Loughborough terms is second only to the AU in size should be able to offer more to students than merely a membership.

Many students unions have double the amount of societies as Loughborough do and yet no one has spoken and fought for this before except for the Union that has the most developed sabbatical system in the country.

Although the need for a national association and national conference as well as national recognition for outstanding individuals has all been put through, processed and passed by NUS, I have yet to see evidence of it’s further development.

Excited Delegates
An excited pair

Indeed, further development has been non-existent and the NASSA organisation has yet been started or indeed encouraged by the NUS. Although well meaning, most policy passed at NUS conference is hampered by fundamental problems with the NUS system.

The policy Georgia brought to conference wasn’t even debated and was later passed by the National Executive Committee (NEC), and so is officially a part of the NUS Union Development Policy as can be found on the NUS website (pp30-31). Victory? Not quite.

Icecap melting halted, Israel-Palestine peace but nothing for Student Societies

Policy expected to be debated over 2 days.

At NUS conference there are procedural motions which get passed by simple show of hands as to how the running of conference should progress. NUS Zones have time allotted to them, though this may be changed by procedural motion. Well meaning students wanting to discuss the finer details of topics such as Free Education, banning Police from campuses and an NUS mandated demonstration each year, pass somewhat confusing motions that extended zones other than the Union Development Zone to the degree that Union Development policies weren’t even debated at conference in 2014. This is known as extending the guillotine for zones and is used by political fanatics who love debating. Many of the policies debated are worthwhile, but many are focused more on providing a platform for individuals’ futures in national politics than being a cause for good for students. Not only is frustrating for delegates, this is selfish and wrong.

One of the main reasons for many quality student-focused polices being missed from debate and then ignored by the Executive is the sheer amount of policy that is submitted to conference. Ahead of conference this year while voting on which policy should be prioritized for debate I tweeted on the subject, which was responded to in agreement by the NUS President, Toni Pearce, then kicked off with ex-Label Editor, Jago Pearson, ready to weigh in.

The future for NASSA & other serious policy

Ahead of this year’s National Conference, which I will be giving an insight to in my blog, I put the policy to both Union Development candidates to see if they supported the move and, if so, what they would do to ensure action was taken.

Abdi-aziz Suleiman, a candidate for VP Union Development raised the bigger issue that Georgia’s policy has been destroyed by further issues with the NUS in general.

 There is no ambiguity, if it has been passed by conference it is not a question of if it will be done but how it gets done at the NUS staff level.

One of the difficulties in NUS is that we have conference as this massive democratic occasion. Lots of competing in principle good policy is passed and yet the capacity simply doesn’t exist post conference to fulfill it all. The core of my campaign is about the practical question of how we increase capacity.

I remember what it was like sitting on Soc and Cit committee, with 2 or three dozen polices passed from the previous 3 conferences, each with several resolves usually. The better question to be asked which I’m trying to answer is how do we get to a point where we are able to implement all policy people work so hard to get to conference and pass at conference?

I agree with Abdi, but further argue that a large amount of policy raised, debated and sometimes even passed for non-student focused issues should be excluded from debate at the NUS. This could be done democratically by delegates, by the Democratic Procedures Committee or directly by the Executive. People wishing to take up solidarity with national and international causes with no direct link to a student zone should be encouraged to join organisations already fighting those causes and makes links with the NUS through student wings of these organisations.

Let’s stamp out the hijacking of National Conference for the 1% and let’s start debating, passing and acting upon policy that would benefit the lives of the vast majority of students, such as the establishment of the National Association of Student Societies and Activities. That’s what the NUS should be representing. That’s what I’ll be fighting for at conference this year.


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