by Bradley Allsop
We live in turbulent times. The political establishment has been rocked again and again this last year. The government is embattled in a way it hasn’t been for 7 years and that rarest of things in British politics, change, is peeking its head above the parapet. What’s more, for the first time in my lifetime, it seems my generation is willing to be an active participant in all this. June’s election saw the highest rise in youth turnout in British political history – it reached its highest absolute level since 1992. It falls to those of us already engaged to fan this flame and help it spread beyond the ballot box, building the political courage and competencies of our fellows. Nowhere offers a better opportunity for us to do this than on university campuses.
by Elliot Folan
For the last 3 years, I’ve sat on the UEA Student Union Council. Council has the power to set SU policy, call referendums, mandate Officers to take political stances and actions, rewrite the SU budget and elect members of various committees. In the last year, however, it has become clear that its ability to exercise these powers – and to represent the 14,000 students that make up UEA’s student population – has been hamstrung by various issues. A handful of councillors have blamed the rules of Council, but I strongly disagree: there are only a few rules that every councillor should know, and those can fit on one side of an A4 piece of paper. The rest are all rules that the Chair and Deputy Chair should know in intense detail, and interpret and explain for the rest of the meeting.Continue Reading
The Norwich Radical was born in the student movement, and we continue to be an active part within it. We recognise that while official structures are not the sum total of the movement, they play an undeniably important part and to understand the political consciousness of the student movement, you need to, in part, look at the National Union of Students. 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.
By Ana Oppenheim
Just as I was starting my sabb year, I came across an article about the 1971 student walkout. It took place when Digby Jacks was NUS National President, and Margaret Thatcher served as Education Secretary. The latter – not exactly a fan of collective organising – issued a White Paper, calling for an opt-in system of SU membership and external control of their finances. The NUS’ response was prompt and clear: this attack on student unionism needed to be resisted by any means necessary. The movement that followed wasn’t without its internal disagreements about goals and tactics, but it managed to unite over 350,000 students who took part in regional and national demonstrations, and finally went on a five-week strike. The disastrous proposals were crushed by radical action.Continue Reading
by Sam Naylor
It’s over, people. Candidates and students alike will be breathing deep the post-election buzz. Well not everyone and probably not even most people. Though a record breaking year for UEA elections, still only 23% of those who could vote did — there was a total of 3404 votes. Granted this is student elections and across the country it appears engagement at this level is struggling to grab the majority’s interest but it still supposes a democratic deficit. Negativity aside for a sentence, it was great to see the highest turn out ever for the voluntary position of Ethical Issues officer. However, letting the gloom resume, the positions for mature and post-graduate students received a shockingly low turnout — only a 7% turnout for mature students and an even lower 4% turnout for post-graduate students. This begs to question: are our democratic procedures within university effective?
Without diminishing the achievements of candidates, student elections are in part a glorified popularity contest. Policies are an important aspect of the elections, but people play a much larger part of the parcel. You know how it is — voting for friends, or friends of friends or that girl that you met at a house party once and she kind of seemed like a decent human being. I can’t see a way for this to move beyond the realm of people politics or the ‘Union Bubble’ with its internal divisions and machinations.Continue Reading