The Norwich Radical was born in the student movement, and we continue to play an active role within it. We recognise that while official structures are not the sum total of the movement, they are undeniably important. After a momentous year for the National Union of Students, studying it is more important than ever for understanding the political consciousness of the student movement. As we move into election season for the new NUS President, Vice Presidents and National Executive Council, we contacted all candidates in those elections and offered them the space to write about their election campaigns, why they are standing and their vision for NUS.
Submissions are unedited, and are being published in the order we receive them. This candidate is standing for the Block of 15 on the NEC.
So I suppose, to start, I should say hello; I’m Darren Clarke, currently Vice-President and President-Elect of Staffordshire University Students’ Union. Thank you for taking the time to read this article and thank you to the Norwich Radical for publishing it.
I am standing for Block of 15 at National Conference this year and I suppose I will tell you a bit about why I have chosen to do so and what has brought me to this stage.
I started in politics during my teens, when I was a member and then chair of Strabane Youth Council, Strabane being a small town on the Irish Border. I was the only Protestant member of this council, which was mostly made up of my Catholic peers, but, personally, I am not religious and only want to help everyone I can, so this helped me to fit into this progressive team. Consequently, I started to get involved in the Alliance Party and expanded my interest in politics through campaigning at local elections.
Then came university, where I joined the rugby team, became a halls warden, worked in the Union Venue, and reigned back my involvement in politics. Through the Venue job, however, I was helping students, speaking to them and getting to know the student body more and more each day. Eventually I moved up to Duty Venue Manager in the Union Venue, which really helped me to become a familiar face with the students at Staffs, as well as understand the workings of a students’ union. So I decided to run for Officer.
I truly believe NUS services are the backbone of the charity and really do make all the campaigns possible
I was elected VP and started my journey with the NUS, having only ever used them for Trading Purposes in the past. I came to SUs16, fresh first year Sabb and have gotten to know lots more Sabbs from a range of universities. Here, I found out loads more about the problems students faced and wanted to help where I can.
Back in my first week of my VP year I Ran for NUS Trading Support DOB and was successfully elected; this meant that I would be advising on any trading decisions for NUS for the next year. It really opened my eyes to NUS and how it works, more so on the services and UD side. I truly believe NUS services are the backbone of the charity and really do make all the campaigns possible, not only with its profit generation, but also giving students value for money on campus through the Trading Consortium.
Personally, I’ve not been a huge fan of NUS politics this year, with the scandals and campaigns I don’t fully agree with, such as the NSS Boycott, something our students just didn’t want could’ve damaged our healthy relationship with the university. NUS Full Time Officers are more in the media for negative reasons than positive and this is not how I envisioned the National Union of Students.
I want to do my bit to ensure that NUS remember they are here for students and their unions. This has to be the focus of NUS: supporting sabbatical officers when it’s needed, having an impact on a first year leaving home for the first time to University, seeing their Students’ Union for the first time and knowing that the NUS logo means good things and that their Union is supported strongly.
I also believe in sharing of best practice and knowledge. As a Sabb, coming to NUS for the first time can be daunting and confusing as there is so much to take in. I want to ensure that the summer period is used properly to empower Full Time Officers with the knowledge needed for the year ahead. One example is of the NUS services, as there is a severe lack of engagement from Sabbs in this and this is what funds your national demos, as well as events and conferences.
Lastly, I want to do what I can to remove hostility in NUS. People talk of the Left, Centre-Left and, as ever in the Student movement, the Lesser Right. Well I think that should stay in Parliament, we need to be talking about students and what Parliament’s Left and Right are doing for all students no matter what background or beliefs they have.
Whatever happens in this block election, I have been elected President for Staffs during ‘17/18 and look forward to continue engaging with NUS next year as a member and ensure they are doing what’s right for my union and my students, regardless of the politics.