Demaine Boocock was a delegate from a Southport sixth form college to the 2012 conference of the National Union of Students. She explains how she got politically active.
I thought the student protests in 2010-2011 were cool and supported them, but I was never involved. People talked about it at my high school and were pissed off at tuition fees but that was the extent of my knowledge.
I only got involved in student politics through getting involved with Workers’ Liberty and subsequently NCAFC.
Our student union is more like a student council. It’s not a political body and the vast majority of students aren’t involved. They organise school dances, charity stuff and deal with a few complaints but that seems to be about it.
I found out about NUS conference through Workers’ Liberty and NCAFC, not NUS. It’s what I said in my speech to conference, and it’s true! I got myself delegated through sending a lot of emails to the student council and following it up by asking at meetings. I just kept at it so eventually I got the information. It wasn’t a very democratic procedure.
I thought NUS conference was good by way of left-wing motions (free education and a national demonstration are the ones that stand out for me) and getting one lefty elected as a full-time position, so I’m pleased with that. At the time the left all seemed to work fairly well together, although I’ve since heard stories that this was not the case.
I think there were problems with accessibility at the conference — the timing is bad for further education students. But changing it to the holidays would marginalise international students. Also, the conference wasn’t long enough and important motions dropped off the agenda — i.e. anti-fascist/anti-racist motion.
I think the left-wing motions on further students — free education and supporting walkouts and EMA — are great and could potentially really work. However, the leadership could be slack on this unless people really pressure NUS.
I’m very excited at the prospect of walkouts and a national demo. Having the NUS behind you really does help with wary students, teachers, parents and student councils; it gives it a degree of legitimacy and a wider scope. At the same time, though, it’s clear that NUS has been rubbish in the past by the fact that hardly anybody at my college is involved and a lot don’t even realise that it is the national union of students, representing their interests and able to make political change.
For example, one guy told me he thought NUS was just about “make-believe”, which I think says a lot.