Posts Tagged ‘Leicester University Students Union’
Last week, I was invited by the University of Leicester Students’ Union to speak on a panel debate alongside Aaron Porter; former NUS National President, Eben Marks; Amnesty UK and Kirsty Minnis to talk about activism – after hearty exchanges on what activism means to us and how the student landscape has changed, there was a heated debate on if protest is ever futile with at least half the panel making references to the November 9th Demonstration called by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts and the NUS/UCU National Demo to support activists.
My position on this is clear; we shouldn’t be spending hundreds of pounds of anyone’s money on coaches until there is a political opportunity to influence – i.e. the national demo organised by NUS and UCU was called to influence Parliament on the increase of tuition fees. Student Unions across the UK, including ours forked out a lot of resources, not just on the logistics but also promoting the event and getting the numbers we needed. It took up a lot of sabb timeout of priority campaigns but I believe it was the right thing to do at that time. The same amount of resources cannot be justified for this demonstration.
Yesterday, I put forward a motion “Students as Partners, Not Consumers: Campaign Action” (click to read the whole thing) asking that Swansea University Students’ Union politically support the NCAFC demo, the national lobby of Parliament by education trade unions over pensions and the industrial action called for the 30th. The motion passed overwhelmingly.
I do believe that the national demo galvanised HE issues for an entire generation, but I think we can do more for our students in Swansea locally. It is crucial now, more than ever to win the hearts and minds of our peers and make the arguments against the chaotic white paper before the bill is presented.
Therefore, on November the 9th, instead of organising busses to London, we will hold a local rally to make clear to University management that students in Swansea do not want the consumer relationship. Instead, we want to be partners in education. We want the rhetoric on ‘putting students at the heart of decision making’ to mean something and actually work to improve the academic student experience.
Rhiannon Hedge, our education officer who seconded my motion made the analogy of buying a chocolate bar – once you’ve bought it, if you don’t like it; it’s too late to change it. All you can do at this point is complain. If students are partners then they actively shape the delivery of the education we want. This is far more efficient than getting a service you don’t want and then wasting more time complaining about it.
I look forward to seeing you at the rally on November the 9th. A month away, expect to hear more about this very soon. This won’t just end with a rally – it will be a sustained student-led campaign throughout the year.
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.