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Union Council instructs NUS delegates to vote in line with UUEAS policy

At last Thursday’s meeting of Union Council (20th November), councillors voted to endorse a motion from Ethical Issues Officer Josh Wilson that called on UEA’s delegates to the National Union of Students (NUS) conference to vote in line with student union policy.
The motion amended the by-laws of the Union of UEA Students (UUEAS), to say that “all delegates are required to vote with Union Policy”, as well as setting up a committee that would interpret Union Policy and decide if it applied to policies put at NUS conference. The committee will be composed of all five NUS National Conference delegates, the Chair of the Democratic Procedures Committee (David Hall), the Chair of the Student Officer Committee (Holly Staynor), and two union councillors elected by Union Council. As Holly Staynor is both a delegate and chair of the student officer committee, a ninth member will be appointed by the rest of the committee.
Proponents of the motion argued that: “delegates go to represent the UUEAS, who in turn represents the students of UEA… Union Council [which decides UUEAS policy] is the only democratic and accountable body that forms the policies and shows the views of students”.
Delegates would not have to vote in line with a UUEAS policy if they included a specific promise in their manifesto which opposed that policy.
When queried on whether delegates would face official consequences if they voted against UUEAS policy, Josh Wilson acknowledged that the student union would not be able to ban such delegates from standing again as has been done in the past, due to NUS rules that allow any student to stand in NUS elections.
Wilson, who proposed the motion together with Postgraduate Education Officer Liam McCafferty, told Concrete: “I brought this motion to council because there seemed to be an assumption by some candidates for the NUS delegate elections that they could vote against policy, which is formed in Union Council. I think this is dangerous because, although not perfect, Council is the only democratic body that forms and articulates the collective student opinions, and attempts by individual delegates to formulate this independently has the potential to have major issues.
“Such as, if a general meeting was used the make-up of and accessibility of it may be questionable. Further, certain personal opinions, not explicitly stated in a delegates manifesto, may be pushed even if they go against the views of the wider student population”.
Although no councillor spoke against the motion, NUS delegate Adam Curtis has subsequently spoken out against the idea. He told Concrete: “I agree with the aim of the motion, which is apparently to prevent delegates voting based on their connections to political organisations. But how can the Union guarantee the same issue won’t present itself on the committee which will seem to be deciding how I, and the entire student population, think? Delegates were elected directly by the students, and now the union has decided they don’t agree with the candidates who were elected. Among multiple issues, I see no mention of the apparent exemption of manifesto policy, and even if that was included, I would certainly have changed my manifesto had this union motion been passed before the NUS election”.
NUS delegates represent UEA students at NUS National Conference, which makes decisions on NUS policy, as well as electing the Presidents and Vice Presidents of the NUS. The conference will be held in Liverpool in April 2015, and UEA students will be represented by Chris Jarvis, Connor Rand, Adam Curtis, Holly Staynor and Amy Rust.

25/11/2014

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