The student officers of the Union of UEA Students (UUEAS) have voted to overturn Union Council’s backing of a free education demonstration in London, set to be held on for the 19th November. The decision comes after the National Union of Students (NUS) pulled its support from the protest on the grounds that it would be inaccessible and unsafe.
Union Council voted overwhelmingly to oppose all charges and taxes for education at its meeting on 30th October, after a heated debate that saw student union officers take opposing sides. A motion condemning “the marketisation of higher education” and committing UUEAS to supporting the London demonstration was passed with amendments. It also explicitly mandated the union to provide transport to the protest.
However, after the NUS executive rescinded its support, UUEAS student officers met and decided by seven votes to six to reverse Council’s decision and end the union’s backing for the protest.
Explaining why UUEAS student officers voted to pull support from the free education demo, Holly Staynor, Welfare, Community & Diversity Officer and chair of SOC, said in a statement: “At our meeting on Thursday night the Student Officer Committee discussed the situation for over an hour, debating carefully the statement from NUS and seeking to reach an interpretation of the policies on accessible campaigning and support for the demo.
“Following careful discussion we resolved that the concerns over risk and access highlighted by NUS made it not possible to enact the wishes of Union Council on this occasion in relation to running coaches to the demo.
“This was not a decision we reached lightly, but ultimately the safety of our students and the ability of all of our students to take part has to come first”. She added: “We will now be working positively to identify alternative, accessible and safe ways for students to take part in political protest and action in relation to education funding”.
The pro-free education vote by Union Council follows a similar vote by this year’s NUS National Conference.