ULU Update: early November to the end of the month

An update of my work as ULU Vice President from the beginning of November to the 26th of the same month:

1.                 NUS Demonstration:

A lot of my time has been dedicated to building the national demonstration. Alongside the new President, our Campaigns and Engagement coordinator, I did a number of things:

–                      ULU and the NCAFC organised a feeder march:

It raised slogans about taxing the rich and using the wealth of the banks to fund education, free education with living grants for all and the write-off of all student debt, the defense of international students and supporting workers fighting for their rights on campus and beyond.  We felt that it would be irresponsible and undemocratic for the student movement simply to march to Kennington under a slogan that no-one voted for.

Despite several colleges turning up late, or cancelling their attendance at the feeder, it was still a colorful, lively and large feeder march.

–                      London Wide demos and campaigns meeting: ULU organised pan – London assemblies to decide upon the campaign and ideas for building the demonstration.

–                      Quebec student Speaker tour: I, alongside Edwin at UCLU, organised to bring over a student from Quebec to share their experiences and stories from their successful student movement. We travelled across the UK and did meetings and workshops in London.

–                      A Party with CLASSE: ULU held a social event after the demonsration for activists and students from across the UK to socialise.

–                      Demo banner making and creative session: Alongside UAL Students’ Union, we organised a banner making and creative time for the demonstration.

–                      Unpaid interns meeting: We held a meeting on the question of unpaid labour and internships – there was an action outside a well known high street store, talks and then drama in the evening.

–                      Local union assistance: we provided financial and political support to many students’ unions in the lead up to the demonstration.

 2.                 Trans remembrance event:

I helped to organise, and ULU hosted London Trans-remembrance event. It was a very special evening. TDoR took the form of reading out the names of the trans people who have been killed. There were then performances by trans people, such as poets and rappers. It was a very sad occasion, and sometimes the only meaningful funeral some of the victims will ever get. See a full report here: http://ulu.co.uk/news/index.php?page=article&news_id=353483

 3.                 Remembrance service invitation:  

There has been much controversy in response to my decision to decline an invitation to the University of London remembrance service. My non – attendance was in no way a snub to the victims of war; I declined because I disagree with the way remembrance services are currently constructed in the UK. I felt it was important to thoroughly explain this to the University chaplain, rather than simply saying ‘No’ without justification.

I published the letter I wrote to the University Chaplin to explain my decision to ULU student members. This came from a spirit of honesty to my members and those that elected me. This is here: https://dancooperulu.wordpress.com/2012/11/09/why-i-declined-an-invitation-to-lay-a-wreath-at-the-uols-rememberance-service/  

I was under no professional or formal obligation to attend; there are no rules, either through ULU policy or through the constitution, that stipulate my attendance at such an event. A staff member attended on behalf of ULU. At no point have I tried to claim my view is an official, collective ULU position or that a majority of ULU members agree with it

The position of student officers is a political one, elected on political manifestos. I was elected ULU Vice President on a clear, honest political platform, as a socialist whose political positions include opposition to militarism. I think it is wrong to suggest (or even that it is possible) to represent the views of “all students”. When forming policy, some students are inevitably going to disagree, or feel their views aren’t being represented.

There was no way of knowing what student opinion through any formal means of registration, for example the ballot box or senate decisions. The reality is that we don’t know what most University of London students think about this issue.

I do not think we should be in the habit of forcing student officers to attend events to which they disagree.

Some have assumed that the event I advertised in the preface to my letter is an official ULU event. It is not. I am a member of the socialist organisation Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (AWL). The meeting is an AWL event, held at ULU as many meetings of all sorts are, but organised by me in a personal (or rather non-ULU) capacity and run by the AWL.

I wrote a response to the criticisms I faced on the issue: https://dancooperulu.wordpress.com/2012/11/15/more-thoughts-on-remembrance-a-response-to-comments/

There have been calls for my resignation: I will not be resigning from my post – and feel a ‘no – confidence’ referendum is only to the detriment of ULU and the continued good work it has been doing this year.

4.                 Workers rights – student worker campaign:

–                      I have been continuing to support the 3Cosas Campaign, which calls for sick pay, holidays and pensions for contracted workers at the University of London. This has involved:

–                      We held a meeting to launch our ‘Rights at work’ campaign. It was a success – lots to now be getting on with. See a full report here: http://69.195.124.73/~youngwo6/2012/11/14/report-supersize-my-pay/

–                      Goldsmiths campaign: Goldsmiths students are running a campaign that ties in with ULU’s rights at work – they are organising the auxillary staff at the university, getting students clued up about their rights at work and organising the student staff in the bar. I have been supporting the efforts. We have a number of events coming up before the end of term.

5.                 Students defend the NHS meeting:

Alongside Goldsmiths Students Union, I am organising a meeting to discuss campaigning in defence of the health service. This is at 6pm on Monday, 3rd December.  This will aim to bring together medical students and interested students.

  1. 6.                 ULU Funding review: I have been doing a number of ongoing things on the funding review:

–                      Meeting figures within the UoL to discuss the future of ULU.

–                      Putting together ULU’s response, as well as my own and the trustees response to the funding review.

–                      Working alongside constituent students’ unions on their response to the funding review.

–                      Putting together plans for our main presentation to the committee on the 12th December. This is when we will be expected to put forward various scenarios on the future of ULU.

7.                 Housing in London:

This is an ongoing focus of my ULU as a whole, particularly now Michael has arrived. We have split the general housing issue. I am focusing on:

–                      International students and guarantors: As it stands international students are required to stump up several months rent before they are even allowed to move in.

We have been doing research into this. Briefly, our plan of action is: a) to campaign hard for London Unievrsities to step in as guarantors, and b) explore the idea of Escro accounts, which act similarly to tenancy protection schemes, paid on a monthly basis.

–                      Universal credit: The Government has announced a 10% cut in Council Tax Benefit, to be administered by local councils. Councils have launched consultations on who should continue to receive Council Tax Benefit (ie. exemption from council tax) and though pensioners are statutorily protected, this leaves open the possibility that the disabled on employment and support allowance or disability living allowance, single parents with children under five, students and the unemployed could all now pay some council tax.

We are researching into the detail of the legislation at the moment. Details to follow on the campaign. However, think it’s worth stressing that we will in no way (ever) make the case that students have a greater right not to pay council tax than other members of society. We will be arguing that everyone should continue to receive council tax benefit.

–                      Know Your Rights and Awareness-Raising

Part of the reason why landlords and letting agencies get away with so much is that students are unaware of their rights. ULU, working with other colleges, is running a campaign to publicise:

  • Tenants’ rights
  • Average rents by area
  • The admin fees being charged by letting agents
  • Landlords and agencies who meet the ULU code of practice
  • Bad treatment by students through a ‘Report your landlord’ website

–                      We hope to run a one day conference with experts on the general question of housing in London. This will bring together experts on changes to benefits, tenants’ rights, charities and campaign groups, and activist training.

  1. 8.                  ULU Student activities: as mentioned in my previous report, there are a number of big areas of work within the SA department, these include:

–                      College Visits – we are meeting Staff & Sabbaticals – to discuss what support is required and how we can help.

–                      Every 2 weeks on a Tuesday ULU (from the sabbatical team) is sending out ULU publicity by post, email, social network and through personal visits.

–                      We have launched the “ Get Involved Programme”: new sports and activities not currently provided by BUCS or LUSL – Dodge Ball, Soft ball, Tag American football & Tchoukball, 5 A-side Football.

–                      Cross London Event – We are planning a series of cross London student activities. These include:

  • 5 – A – Side world record attempt
  • Societies conference: bringing together societies officers, secretaries and Presidents to share best practice, network, engage in workshops and hear from experts.
  • Alongside UCLU, we are beginning to organise a cross London Music festival.
  • London Jazz Orchestra ‘battle of the bands’

–                      We are continuing to run student Activities officer training, support and development for all C & S officers – treasurers etc.

–                      We have been continuing to meet each ULU society officer individually and monitor numbers and room usage.

–                      We are putting the final touches to launching the ULU Sports on-line shop in January – any profits made to go into a special fund to support colleges who struggle to afford pitches and kit.

–                      Sponsorship initiatives – supporting constinuent colleges bid for much needed funding.  

  1. 9.                 Case work: I am supporting a number of students from different campuses around academic and welfare matters.
  1. Presence on constituent campuses:

I have been on the following university campuses, meeting officers and students, and supporting the local work being done: the IOE, RHUL, the Courtauld, Goldsmiths, CSSD, UCLU, Royal Academy of Music, SOAS, Birkbeck, London Metropolitan and Greenwich.

This is followed by a working through of the individual and specific ULU – college memorandum of understanding.

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