James Dixon, Deputy President of De Montfort University Students' Union writes about his severe dissatisfaction with the priorities of the conference:
NUS Annual Conference failed to discuss the single biggest educational issue of the day.There is a clear division of opinion on this matter amongst students' unions but the NUS has not actually debated its position on the matter. Instead those speaking to the media and sending out briefings have adopted the rather bizarre position of telling any students concerned about the strike to complain to their universities! But it isn't the universities who are striking!
Emergency Motions regarding the industrial action being currently taken by the AUT and NATFHE were not allowed to be discussed.
Despite having no policy on the matter and many Students' Unions calling for NUS President Kat Fletcher to change her stance on the matter, no time was found for the debate.
The issue of industrial action came top of the delegates Emergency Motions Priority Ballot, ahead of other big contemporary issues such as suspended University of Leeds lecturer Frank Ellis.
Conference, however, spent hours discussing whether or not to boycott Coca-Cola and if Hizb-ut Tahrir, an Islamic Group that the government wants to make a proscribed organisation, should be welcome within NUS.
I ask you to consider whether the priorities of NUS match that of Students' Unions or students on UK campuses?
And why on earth is the NUS even considering patronising students and telling them what they can and can't drink in union bars? Do the advocates of a boycott seriously believe that institutional boycotts work? The Nestle boycott has just resulted in students being frustrated that they can't buy Nestle in campus shops without a proper explanation being given as to why. All it does is encourage them to go elsewhere to buy not just Nestle but everything else, impacting on the campus shop profits but making little impact on Nestle.
If a campaign to boycott of Coca Cola is to be effective (and I don't know if it should - I've not seen anyone make a strong case for this), it should aim to get individuals to boycott Coca Cola everywhere. Rather than just taking away my opportunity to have a Coca Cola in the students' union bar without telling me why (and I seriously doubt the cash strapped NUS would ever pay for people to be in every SU bar across the country to explain to customers at the point of no sale why Coca Cola has been withdrawn), the boycott campaign should aim to get me to boycott Coca Cola everywhere, whether in the SU bar, in pubs, in restaurants, in supermarkets, at vending machines and so forth. That is the way to impact on Coca Cola's profits. The approach of getting NUS and its purchasing consortium NUSSL to boycott Coca Cola is just going to impact on students' union bar income, at a time when many unions are deeply strapped for finances.