Saturday, May 20, 2006

AUT/NATFHE marking boycott - the NUS tries to extract itself

Whilst the marking boycott rumbles on and students get more and more worried about their results, the National Union of Students has finally sent out an email to all their members for whom they have email addresses (i.e. the ones who registered their NUS cards online), presented as "Lecturer’s pay dispute: what you need to know" although it's frankly very one-sided. But this is the first time the NUS have bothered to try and explain their position to students directly. No doubt they have been forced to because of the heavy student opposition to the boycott and some think one of the reasons is the poor level of direct communication. One has to wonder why NUS has taken so long in getting its act together, given the rising levels of opposition to the position the National Executive Committee has taken.

One of the issues that has given the NUS the greatest embarrassment is the failure of the national conference in March to even discuss the issue. Some have asserted that this wasn't the NEC's fault, but past NUS Conferences have shown that when the NEC is behind emergency motions time has been made for them. The failure to take a lead and seek a mandate from the conference has left the NUS exposed and I am not surprised there is talk on the educationet messageboard about unions potentially disaffiliating.

The latest NUS update details NUS's meeting with UCEA and also their lobbying of the Association of Graduate Recruiters to ease the problems for students graduating, but also contains the following statement:


Delegates at regional conferences have made it clear that they were frustrated that a motion on the industrial action was not debated at the national conference in March. This frustration has been shared by NEC members who had done everything they could to ensure that this was debated. An emergency motion was put forward, and Steve Wharton, President of AUT, traveled up to Blackpool to answer students' questions at Julian Nicholds, Vice President's invitation. Following the Steering Committee's failure to allocate time for this debate to take place, Gemma Tumelty, National Secretary, has written to them requesting a statement that explains the reasons for this. We will ensure that members are informed of the response of the Steering Committee.
The "done everything they could" rings hollow and I wonder just who will be editing and passing on the response. And why on earth is the National Secretary Gemma Tumelty (and National President elect) having to write to the Steering Committee when she's the NEC member on it? Doesn't she know the answer?

I hope that the NUS NEC does not try to pass the buck onto the Steering Committee for the failure of the conference to discuss the motion. If the NEC were so confident that their position was actually supported by students' unions, they would have submitted an emergency motion themselves and ensured that the time to debate it was found.

These attempts by the NUS to reconnect with students and get back in touch are piecemeal at the moment. They need to do a lot more to reassure students and students' unions across the country that they are listening to concerns. Otherwise I would not be surprised if unions start disaffiliating.


coffeelover said...

At least I made a cack-handed attempt to get some extra time for Emergency Motions. I wish I had prepared better as I didn't really know what I was doing!

Anonymous said...

The following statement has been issued by the Steering Committee:

"The Steering Committee at every stage ensured that there was time allotted to Emergency Motions on the Order Paper and on each revised Order Paper. This time allocation never was fewer than 20 minutes. Requirements under the Standing Orders were also observed for the prioritisation of business and the prioritisation of time allocated to main items. Delegates who sought advice on how to challenge the Order Paper for the purposes of moving the Conference onto discuss the Emergency Motions, received advice on how to do this. Those representatives who attended the Drafting Commission meeting for the Emergency Motions were also advised as to the process for how the Conference would deal with Emergency Motions and the process of how Order Paper challenges could raise Emergency Motions towards the top of the agenda, including being notified that there were priorities for debate as listed in Standing Orders.

Challenges were received to the Order Paper both on the Wednesday evening penultimate session and on the Thursday morning final session. One of these requested a ruling from the Chair of Conference on timing (for Elections and Emergency Motions) as the No-Platform Policy amendment had run on into time for Elections and the other was raised as a Point of Order requesting a Chair’s ruling on time allocation during the Coca-cola motion and amendments which the Chair of Conference again dealt with. In the latter case, the Chair asked the Conference if it wished to hear the case for the Point of Order. The case was put that (15 minutes of) time be removed from the Zone Debate on Society & Citizenship and allocated to the Emergency Motions time allocation. The Conference denied this request and the Chair of Conference ruled in favour of the Conference’s decision. This meant that the guillotine on the Society & Citizenship Zone fell at 13:42, leaving only 18 minutes of time allotted for the whole of Conference. Items remaining for discussion along with the Emergency Motions, included Estimates, the Accounts, Ratification of Liberation Conference Policy, the Policy Lapse, all of which are time prioritised above Emergency Motions in the Standing Orders.

The Steering Committee has met in a wash-up meeting, and has highlighted priorities which need to be addressed, both by the Steering Committee and other parties involved in the organisation of the Conference. The minutes of Steering Committee meetings are open to inspection by any Union and any student of the NUS for inspection at anytime including the allocation of time and discussion of the submitted Emergency Motions to the Conference in March 2006.

This statement should be read along with the full Steering Committee Report on Emergency Motions, which includes background information and details which explain some of the minutia. Other useful documents include CD15 The Order paper (Appendix A), CD19 The Steering Committee Report to the Conference (Appendix B) and CD22 The Minutes of the Conference (Appendix C).

Steering Committee, May 2006"


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