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NUS Women’s Campaign’s Statement on Free Education Demo

Friday 14-11-2014 - 16:24

The Women's Campaign strongly believes in free and accessible education: an education which is not dictated or dominated by old or deceased straight white men, but one that celebrates diversity and liberation; an education where students don't have to choose between paying for hidden course material and food; an education that liberates and empowers, rather than subjects us to a lifetime of debt and unemployment.

In this general election year, the movement for free education has a great opportunity to mobilise support across campuses. We strongly believe that liberation should at the heart of that mobilisation, not an afterthought. If, as a student movement, we truly believe that access, intersectionality, and mental health are more than buzzwords, they should not be footnotes when it comes to organising action. If we as a movement genuinely believe that solidarity is more than a ten letter word we should be activity organising with multiple tactics in mind - direct and indirect - so that students who are unable to take part in one sort of action are nevertheless able to be a part of the campaign. Otherwise, we risk resorting to ableism and bullying: when we value activists solely on scale of being able to take part physically in actions we start to replicate some of the oppressive social hierarchies that liberation works to break down. 

We believe that the campaign for free education should be intersectional and be accessible to the most marginalised students in education, and people that haven't had the opportunity to enter education due to fees and discrimination. We should, therefore, be actively organising to make the spaces we organise in safer and accessible, and adopting a zero tolerance to discrimination policy. Unfortunately, due to this not being done in the earliest stages of the organising process, as well as general miscommunication, NUS UK officers felt like it was inappropriate and inaccurate to claim to students’ unions that the free education demonstration was an event at which we could guarantee the safety of students. As an intersectional liberation campaign, we stand by the Disabled Students’ Campaign in their concerns for the safety of disabled students at the demo. We also support them in their efforts to gather accurate information about safety and accessibility plans for the demo and distribute them as soon as possible so that students can make an informed choice and about attending, and in creating accessible alternatives for campaigning on the day.

Our priority as a campaign is the welfare and safety of women and the right for women to organise and campaign in the ways that they feel the most comfortable. Though the Women’s Campaign will not be attending in our official capacity, we recognise that on this day many women will want to contribute to campaigning for free education, on and outside the demo; it should be your choice whether to attend the demo or not. We are working on material for women students on accessible an inclusive protesting for future activity this year, because we believe that all women should have the right to engage safely in the movement for free education and social justice.

For further information about disabled access and the demo please contact the Disabled Students’ Officer by email. For further information about safety if you are planning to take students to the demo please contact the National President via email.

For further guidance about the right to protest and accessible activism please see these suggested links:

Of activism and ableism

Ableism, access, demonstrations, meetings, politics, protests, pubs, wheelchair access

Your right to protest

In Solidarity

NUS Women’s Campaign 

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