Tuesday 04-11-2014 - 09:23
As many of you will know, a demonstration for free education has been organised, taking place in London on 19 November.
At a meeting on 16 September, the NUS NEC agreed a motion to formally endorse this demonstration and encourage unions to mobilise for it. The motion also outlined NUS would advise the demonstration organisers on necessary safety measures to put in place.
It is with huge reluctance and regret that I have to release this statement outlining why NUS is not in a position to support this demonstration.
I have made this decision with the NUS Vice Presidents and Liberation officers who hold significant concerns regarding an unacceptable level of risk that this demonstration currently poses to our members.
- The plans that are in place do not give us confidence that the demonstration will be accessible to all students – in particular disabled students.
- We have commissioned and paid for, the best risk assessment possible based on incomplete information that we were given by organisers, and it is clear that there are inadequate measures in place to mitigate against significant risks in line with our advice posing an unacceptable level of risk
- We do not believe there is sufficient time between now and the demonstration for these risks to be mitigated
- There is no public liability insurance in place
- It is clear that the concerns of the NUS liberation officers about accessibility, safe space and the ability for liberation groups to be involved have not been met
I believe that this decision had to be made today, because there are now only two weeks until the planned demonstration date. We are clear this is the minimum period of time that we could allow for students’ unions to review the situation and make informed decisions about whether to participate.
I also believe it is right and essential that students’ unions have an opportunity to hold me and the other officers to account for this decision, and with our Zone Conferences underway in Harrogate this is the right time for that discussion to take place.
The reality we are confronted with is that this demonstration presents an unacceptable level of risk, is not accessible and does not meet the minimum expectations our members would expect for an action that carries NUS support. NUS has policy to support free education, and we will continue to lobby and campaign for this, but no action that we take should be put above the ability for all our members to be safe. We have gone to considerable lengths to help change that position, by working with the organisers, but that time has now run out.
I now hope that student officers across the country understand this decision and make their own decisions about whether to attend the demonstration.
Toni Pearce, NUS President
And all NUS UK full-time officers