The launch meetings of the Student Left Network and Socialist Feminist Campus Collective on 17-18 November decided to campaign for a vote of no confidence in National Union of Student [NUS] President Shakira Martin.
A letter signed by Martin and NUS Chief Executive Peter Robinson has announced that “radical reforms” will be made to NUS democracy to resolve an alleged £3 million deficit apparently resulting from mismanagement of NUS's commercial affairs. These reforms are due to be discussed at a meeting of Student Union Presidents and Chief Executives on 27-28 November, with no input from students, and finalised in time for NUS Conference 2019 to rubber-stamp them.
The 17-18 November meetings demanded that NUS to open the books to a transparent, accountable and democratic investigation, with decisions to be made only by a properly constituted conference. No cuts should be made to NUS democracy, campaigns or representation.
If the Student Left Network’s no confidence motion is passed in twenty-five student unions, an extraordinary conference will automatically be called, where we will run our own candidate to challenge Martin.
The new organisations will host a speaker tour and phonebanking sessions to talk to activists and student union officers on Further Education and Higher Education campuses across the country. We will call for the whole student left to unite around the campaign.
If the proposed reforms to NUS democracy go through, NUS will be little more than a service provider and think-tank. The Student Left Network plans to counterpose itself as an alternative leadership for NUS with a very different vision: we want a radical, campaigning NUS that is much more democratic and representative, with genuine control in the hands of its elected representatives and student members, not unelected and highly-paid senior management.
The Student Left Network is mobilising students across the country to protest outside the "Strategic Conversation" meeting of SU Presidents and Chief Executives in Bristol on 27 November . The agenda for the event states a set of principles have already been "agreed" for a new structure in NUS. We demand to know how, when and by whom this was agreed. We also demand to know why SU Chief Executives - unelected and often on six figure salaries - are taking part in discussions on NUS democracy.
The Student Left Network also agreed to launch a campaign for freedom of speech on campus, and against the government’s Prevent policy, linked to opposing the far right. This will start with a national demonstration later this term at Reading University, over management’s decision to flag an academic article on socialist "revolutionary violence" to the government as extremism. The campaign will put motions to student unions and UCU branches advocating non-compliance with Prevent. Workers’ Liberty students will argue for this campaign to broaden out around the right to organise and protest on campus.
The Socialist Feminist Campus Collective voted to focus this term on campaigning for migrants’ rights and the closure of all detention centres, workers’ rights and sex workers’ rights. It has already circulated a model motion for students’ unions on migrants’ rights, called a student bloc on the Yarl’s Wood demo on 1 December, and will be co-hosting a speaker tour on sex workers’ rights early next term with Decrim Now.
Both organisations have adopted structures which individuals can join and groups and organisations can affiliate to. Temporary committees were elected until the first national committees are elected at AGMs early in 2019. Websites will be coming soon.
The Student Left Network has adopted a student "left unity charter". The Network will support candidates in NUS and Labour Students elections who publicly endorse the broad lines of the unity charter, as well as running its own candidates.
* Read the open letter on NUS democracy here