NUS’s political paralysis is intimately linked to its weakened democracy and swelling bureaucracy. Millions and millions are spent on bureaucratic nonsense. That is a large part of why, despite being such a vast and well-funded organisation, the national union achieves so little.
I stand for cutting back NUS bureaucracy and redirecting funds to democracy and campaigns. Conference should be extended and made bigger, as it was in the past. Travel funds should be restored to part-time NEC members so they can get out, campaign and hold the full-time officers to account. Unelected NUS officials should be made fully subordinate to elected representatives, and the absurd salaries and privileges for the people right at the top reduced. Access fees for NUS events should be cut. The campaigns budget, including for the Liberation Campaigns, should be majorly expanded.
NUS needs different kind of national events from the ones it usually organises now, geared to debating ideas and generating campaigning.
I also stand for democracy in our student unions. The scandal of Trustee Boards (in collaboration with SU managers) vetoing students’ decisions and attacking student union democracy is now running wild – as evidenced by the recent gutting of democracy at Birmingham. We need to get Trustee Boards under control, restaff them solely with elected students and officers (if they must exist at all) and insist that democratic bodies like General Meetings and Councils take decisions.
I am for regular, well-built General Meetings and for developing structures like departmental assemblies and delegates.
As a sabbatical who reorganised and improved clubs and societies and commercial services at Royal Holloway and at ULU, I know the counterposition between services and campaigning is false. Effective unions and should do both.