So we’ve decided to commission a series on students on the frontline of politics. We’re going to find students from different political parties to tell us what it’s like to be involved in their party whilst also being a student. We’ll be starting off with Sam Rees, who is a Politics student at Swansea University. He’s telling us about what it’s like being a Lib Dem.
On an early November morning last year, I made a hard decision – but a right decision. Dragging my half-awake body across a cold Singleton Park as the sun was rising, I joined hundreds of other fellow students to travel by coach up to London for one issue. It was an issue that would dominate the news for weeks to come: tuition fees.
Three years before that, I was a rookie politics student in a Cardiff sixth form college. I had yet to vote, join a party, campaign or even engage in a political debate. Yet it was that first year of college – the first term and even the first module of my course – that I found a place for me. That place was within the Liberal Democrats.
Having to research political parties, I looked at the background of all major and minor parties. Labour, Conservatives, Plaid, SNP etc. all had good arguments for different issues. But it was the Liberal Democrats that stood out for me. Votes at sixteen, the scrapping of Trident, voting reform, Lords reform and – yes – tuition fees all won me over. For me, these were not just issues for a few, but issues for everyone, issues that, if implemented, would allow every British person to look to the rest of the world and say: ‘Look what we can achieve’.
Back to November. Walking past Millbank, I can remember the Socialist Workers trying to push me into the Conservative Party HQ. The chants around me, however, were not anger at the Tories. In fact, the word ‘Cameron’ was hardly heard; instead, it was a storm of voices shouting ‘Nick Clegg, shame on you, shame on you for turning blue!’ That day, like the tens of thousands of others who came out to protest, I was angry. Angry that Nick Clegg, the man of the students, had all but lost the trust of the entire country.
In the days and weeks afterwards, reality hit me. Tuition fees were going up. While I’m sure that Liberal Democrat MPs who voted in favour of the raise can spend hours explaining to me why they thought it right to vote as they did, an explanation isn’t what I want. Nick Clegg should apologise to students. While he may think he has not done wrong, trust was lost, a promise was broken, and faith in politicians of all kinds was damaged forever.
Yet despite all this hatred, my place is still in the Liberal Democrats. Their goals, their ideology, their constitution, to me, all show signs that under the Liberal Democrats the country will be better off. I want to live in a nuclear free world. I want to live in a world where elites cannot rule the country. I want to live in a society where every child has a fair start.
That is why, here at Swansea University, I have made it my task to expand the Liberal Youth movement in Swansea. This movement, growing in size, is trying to make this country a better place. Last year saw the Liberal Youth of Swansea all but disappear, but now the movement is back. The feeling of progress has returned. Hatred and anger is making way for campaigning and debating. The Arab Spring saw students rise to praise democracy, and now it’s our turn, as students blessed by democracy for most of our life, to make the most of our privileged freedom.
If you still believe in hope, in progress, then be proud: call yourself a member of the Liberal Youth!
So you’re probably in bed, more likely than not you’re also still quite hungover. How better to spend this reflective time than to read our plans for 2012?
Ok – so we’re not going to do some big fancy re-launch or some gimmick and pretend that’s what will solve our problems. Instead, we have some New Year’s resolutions that we’re going to stick to:
(1) We will post new content every week.
(2) We will continue to find the best and most exciting new writers / YouTubers / activists to bring you the good stuff – if you think that’s you, email us: email@example.com
(3) We will work even harder to bring you updates on important campaigns you can be involved with.
(4) We will take what you say seriously and make sure we’re writing about the things you think are important. So click here to go to our facebook page and leave us a few comments.
(5) This has been the year that Student Activist Diary became the website we know and love: from humble beginnings, we broke international news in June, getting cited in the Wall Street Journal for our efforts! Rather closer to home, we also exposed homophobia in Swansea’s Reflex nightclub; we revealed the truth behind the NUS Black Students’ Conference chaos; we reported from all over the country, including the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the Lib Dem party conference and Swansea beer pong society; and amongst all that, we found time to blog about everything from the NEC’s motion on Israel and Palestine to the August riots.
Do you have any New Year’s Resolutions? Share them with us in the comments here or on facebook and we’ll feature the best in next week’s video podcast. From all of us at studentactivistdiary.co.uk; have a FANTASTIC 2012, make it memorable.
62% of Swansea’s student voters want to see NUS move to ‘One Student One Vote’ – Student Activist Diary can reveal.
Examining the results from the NUS UK Delegate elections we can see that three out of four candidates elected had One Student One Vote in their manifesto’s – a clear message to NUS that students in Swansea are not happy with the current set up and want to see change. This news comes as Zahid Raja a member of the NUS Wales National Executive Committee and Luke James who is Swansea University Students Union President are set to propose a motion to enshrine what the voters have said into Student Union policy.
At NUS UK National Conference in 2010, Michael Chessum who is on the NUS UK National Executive Council took to the stage telling us how ‘We have 7 million members but only 700 people who vote in the policy decision’ He described NUS conferences to be ‘dominated by factions that do not reflect the voices of the students on the ground.’
In March, University Central London Union passed a vote of no confidence in both the NUS and the standing National NUS President of the day. The frustration of their students was not dissimilar to the frustration of those here. UCLU’s Student Paper said: “The motion, passed by a two-thirds majority, was the result of a common feeling that the NUS had not supported student activism in the face of tuition fee rises and education cuts.” It was argued that “…their inability to respond to students’ needs was, in part, due to an indirect electoral system. The motion declared that ‘700 delegates cannot properly represent a national union of seven million’ and called for ‘One member, one vote – for a more democratic National Union’.” Harrowing words coming from one of the most active Unions in the country.
Zahid Raja a third year student at Swansea University and a member of the National Executive Committee for NUS Wales said, “I think Swansea Students have spoken clearly on this issue – it’s only entirely proper that we listen to them and make sure that our Students Union does it’s best to shift NUS towards One Student One Vote. That means lobbying other Student Unions about this idea, it means joining other Student Unions like Oxford University Students Union, University of Central London Union and other activists to beat the cliques and deliver what students deserve – real democracy.”
You can have a chance to join the debate and vote for the One Student One Vote motion this evening at 6pm at Café West. This publication strongly suggests that students come this evening and voice what they said through the ballots. Click here for the facebook event page.
At least, that’s what Dr Kim Howells wants you to believe, after a statement earlier this week where he said that international students are a security issue, with particular attacks on Libyan student migrants. The former MP accuses foreign students of espionage and links to terrorism, in what can only be described as painful ignorance, or flat-out racism.
To make such claims, when there has never been any evidence to suggest that any of the 19,000 foreign students in Wales have been involved in any such way, is unjustifiable, and it is damaging. His bigoted attacks alienate thousands, many of whom unfortunately still have to deal with discrimination and racism on a regular basis, and only reinforce negative stereotypes and rampant xenophobia that have no place in our universities or society.
Dr Kim Howells is an idiot. Simple. International students are not a security risk; they are not spies, or jihadists, or any other claim he wants to throw at them – they are our sabbatical officers, they are our classmates and friends, they are the volunteers and activists who work and fight for education and giving the support students need. International students are a vital part of the culture and economy of Wales, and they are no different to anyone else here.
An attack on foreign students is an attack on everyone, and we can not afford to let ignorant comments like those of Dr Howells go uncontested. This Friday, 15th July, students – both national and international, alongside many members of staff, will be protesting at the University of Glamorgan Trefforest campus as Dr Kim Howells receives an honorary doctorate for his “contribution to Welsh and British politics”. I urge you to attend if you can, to show solidarity with our brothers and sisters around the world who should not have to put up with this kind of intolerance.
Guest entry by Andrew Tindall
Andrew is a Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence undergraduate at Aberystwyth University.
According to the NUS Wales Black Students’ Officer, Zahid Raja, ‘This year is set to be one of the most exciting conferences the campaign has ever seen.’
Workshops include: Black Women’s Liberation, Running a Great Event and Utilising Peaceful Direct Action.
Amongst delegates will be the candidates for NUS UK Black Students Officer (full time paid positions), with just a week away, this Conference will be one of the only places these candidates can showcase what they’re about. Both candidates will be running a workshop each.
Amnesty International also look to make an appearance through an informal fringe during lunch where delegates will have a chance to find out what this organisation is about as well as join up if they wish.
Student Activist Diary can reveal the motions to be debated at this Conference:
Like most bearded students, somewhere on some bag or winter coat I too have a bright yellow Amnesty International candle badge pinned. The logo represents Human Rights that affect us all and the role Amnesty plays in fighting injustice, it’s also a lovely colour. But I am more than some mere stylish badge wearer; I am an activist and Amnesty is the reason why I am sat here writing this as a sabb-elect of University of Leicester Student Union.
Activism is such an important part of my life, getting up in the morning for a 9am lecture is one thing, but staying up all night making card shackles for a Burma protest is certainly another. Passing the sign in sheet for a mandatory seminar is dull but asking someone to sign a petition for gay rights in Uganda is rousing. Performing an oral presentation in front of a lecture room full of students is nerve racking, delivering a presentation on forced evictions in Kenya is gripping. Being an Amnesty activist doesn’t end at attending that meeting on a Tuesday evening but for many like me; it actually defines one of the best parts of being a student – collective action.
It was a cold November morning at Amnesty Student Conference 09 – I was eagerly sat at a session on Amnesty’s Stop Violence Against Women campaign where Olivia Bailey (NUS Women’s Officer) mentioned a survey on sexual harassment for female students on college and university campus’. I was naturally intrigued about this survey, as a feminist it doesn’t take much for me to talk about inequality; I spoke to Olivia after the session, got added to the NUS Women’s mailing list and enjoyed the rest of the conference (there was a cheap bar and an underground nightclub where I busted out some shapes. It was excellent.)
Many moons later, a report came out based on the survey. It was called hidden marks; the repor
t uncovered various shocking statics. I was so taken back at results that I felt something needed to be done about this. However, my time as a student was coming to a close – I was at the end of my 3rd year. I worried if anyone would do anything serious about violence against female students on campus.
The Incumbent in my position was also leaving at the end of the year and I thought to myself about how this work would get carried out. I thought I’d pass some motions, and even go to the election debates making sexual harassment the issue – but what if I walked away from the debate not satisfied with the answers? It was that moment where I actually looked at seriously running. Putting an end to violence against female students on campus was what I was passionate about and I was going to do something about it.
So there I was, a bearded student, proudly wearing an amnesty badge talking to other students about issues which affected them and what I thought we should do about it. Hopefully now, after winning, I can get up at 9am every morning and make a bigger difference with students, still proudly wearing that amnesty badge that I started with.
Thomas French, Campaigns & Involvement Officer-elect.
Yesterday, while travelling home to my parents house, I travelled through London during the royal wedding. Predictably there were a high number of police in Paddington and Kings Cross stations (the two I have to use), but having worked in a major train station for well over a year I hardly noticed them. Until I was stopped, supposedly randomly, outside Kings Cross. After ten minutes of arguing with the officers, neither of whom were friendly, I gave in and allowed them to search my suitcase (in the middle of a busy pedestrian area) and conduct a “pat down” search on my body. While this was going on the other officer radioed my details through to somewhere, presumably to check up on me and record the search. After a few minutes the officer came back and told me that while they couldn’t “force” me to stay away from central London and the wedding, I was being “strongly advised” to head out of London (Despite being shown my train tickets, they seemed to completely miss the point that I WAS heading out of London).
This whole incident leads me to believe that my name is on a black list somewhere, and even though I haven’t been arrested for anything on recent demonstrations, they seemed to think they have a right to tell me where to go and what to think. They don’t. If I’d had more time, and not a pre-booked train, I’d have taken a stroll into Westminster, just to test the police reaction.
We live in a country that is launching a vicious crackdown on activists who dare to object to the government, restricting free speech, using the police to destroy what little personal freedom we have left, arresting people for “thought crime” and putting the fear of arrest and imprisonment into peaceful protesters as a way of keeping them from making their voice heard. All while we have “Liberals” in government.
Proud to be British? I’m ashamed of my country.
Fraser Nesbitt – UWE Student, Anti cuts activist.