The National Union of Students (NUS) held their annual National Conference at the end of last month.
The event played host to fresh elections for a number of NUS officers and served as the national platform for motions to be voted on, yet was marred by controversy and protests surrounding the current committee and an apparent lack of time allocated to debate important motions.
According to Jack Robinson, SU Campaigns and Democracy Officer (pictured), the event was largely positive.
“The Conference debated and agreed several important policies – including tackling Student Hardship in the fees review, protecting the right of SUs to ban hate speakers, and ensuring that SUs remain political,” he said.
“Our UEA delegation was pretty united on the core issues – but we were divided on whether NUS should call for a second Brexit referendum once the detail of the ‘deal’ is known.
“In the end NUS backed that call [for a second referendum] and will campaign for it next academic year.”
However, the event was interrupted and subsequently closed when delegates occupied the stage and mounted a sit-in to protest the lack of time afforded to certain motions for debate. A number of welfare motions were reportedly passed over and not debated at all, which prompted the protests. The disturbance led to the conference being shut down and an evacuation of all present. The event eventually reopened with a ‘revised agenda’.
The protest came on top of allegations that the newly re-elected NUS president Shakira Martin created an ‘atmosphere of bullying’ during her last term and further claims that some of her presidential acceptance speech was plagiarized from the TV drama ‘The West Wing’.
Commenting on the matter, Jack Robinson said: “Allegations surrounding Shakira creating an atmosphere of bullying that have appeared in the media appear to be unsubstantiated – just like here at the SU we would expect a proper process to investigate these and determine if they’re true.”
Robinson also claimed the criticism towards Martin’s speech was a distraction from real issues.
He said “[The] suggestion that 20 seconds of Shakira’s speech were similar to a TV show distract from the real issue she was pointing out that knife crime is rife in the UK, that students in Universities and Colleges both have a right to feel safe and that education is the key to ensuring that people can escape a cycle of poverty and crime.”