Like every serious piece of resistance to the Tories’ attacks, student struggles have suffered a major crackdown from the state as well as university managements – particularly this academic year. As well as a suspensions and disciplinary charges, we’ve seen the police repeatedly called onto campuses to batter student protests. At University of London, where I’m Vice President, we’ve had dozens of arrests (including three out of our four sabbaticals), students beaten up by the police and a management plan to abolish our student union. Instead of helping us, NUS rubbed its hands with glee, and conspired with UoL management against us.
I stand for an NUS that takes the threat seriously and backs activists and unions under attack. It’s disgraceful that, when ULU was initially threatened with closure, NUS not only failed to support us, but conspired with UoL management against us. No wonder, then, that the leadership also voted down the NCAFC motion to the National Executive to put a serious policy against police repression into practice.
As advocated in that motion, NUS should create a legal fund to support students arrested or charged as a result of activism. But we should also develop a policy to really get the cops off our campuses. Student unions should demand a pledge from university managements not to call the police onto campus without permission from the SU – and the whole movement should demand Parliament enshrines this in law. Such protection of freedom, dissent and the right to organise on campus has been won in many countries around the world. We should fight for it here.
As NUS President I would unambiguously back any student union or activist group defending or fighting to extend student rights against their university management – and any student officer or activist doing the same against unelected SU bureaucrats.