We are at our most powerful, most successful when our democratic structures are truly reflective of our membership and yet too often we NUS officers spend more time ensuring our own election success rather than encouraging others to think about running. Ensuring that anyone who wants to stand for election is able to is part of my job so let me clear - although I am proud of the diversity already on our National Council we should of course seek to increase the range of representation on it.
All of our NEC are elected and to be a more diverse council we need a greater diversity of candidates. It is simply not good enough that there were no women candidates for President last year and everybody agree that we need more further education students to run for positions such as welfare, union development and president. At the National Executive Council on 1st February, the NEC wrote to the Chief Returning Officer asking her to increase diversity and I want to do my part too, hence this blog.
Students think that people like them don't get elected. Over the past 2 years the NEC has had mature students, apprentice students and student parents elected into open positions. Students from small Welsh FE unions and large Scottish unions have been elected as National Executive Councillors. Where non traditional students stand they have proved that they can win.
Students think that it's difficult to run. You need either five or ten students to nominate you to stand depending on the position. They need to come from different institutions but with over 500 students' unions in membership of NUS there are plenty to choose from.
Last year one of the Presidential candidates was a first year undergraduate with politics different to the student movement stereotype and I believe that the election was richer for his involvement - even if I disagreed with him. He wasn't an NUS "hack", he wasn't an officer in his union and he hadn’t even been to conference before but he took the opportunity that I think all students should be able to take.
I promise you, working for NUS as an officer is one of the most exciting, rewarding and gratifying experiences out there, an experience not many are lucky enough to have the opportunity of seeking. I'm not going to lie to you, running for election can be tough. Really tough. But if you're up for the challenge, then what have you got to lose?
Resources for you and your students can all be found on the official NUS Conference Hub www.nusconnect.org.uk/conference/info. The rules are in Conference Document (CD) 11 and there's a guide to all the positions available. If you're thinking of running then get in touch with who ever currently does the job and ask how to go about it. Like I said last year at Students' Unions 2011 - if you want to run for President then give me a call. Ensuring great elections come first for NUS Officers - seeking re-election rightly comes second.
Tell your students to take the plunge and stand. I promise you, you wont regret it.