David Pedrick, Arts University College at Bournmouth, guest blogs from National Conference on Union Development debates and fringes.
My name is David Pedrick, VP Ed. & Welfare, and first-time voting delegate, from the Arts University College at Bournemouth. I’ve followed with great interest the Union Development motions, report and the examples of on-the-ground work that the NUS had been doing with unions and their members this year and I feel there are many cases to champion and much to learn from this work but I will start by discussing the motions.
Out of the 15 motions tabled, 10 were discussed and 511-15 were referred to the NEC after an unsuccessful guillotine extension move. Of these 10 I voted yes to 7, no to 2 and abstained from 1. I felt it was somewhat unfortunate that I was almost obliged to vote yes to these 7- they were almost passive in their good sense and indeed when I voted no or abstained on two occasions it was only on technical detail rather than the principle of the motions. Surely there is a better way to pose some of these questions that would free up conference to discuss more fundamental policy?
I may be wrong, we all have a right to be heard and have our moment of public scrutiny but those motions that were voted through to conference should surely be heard at conference and not at the disadvantage of other zones. Perhaps in fact conference should have its budget increased and be extended by a day to allow for mopping up time on motions? Is the undoubtedly high budgetary impact worth the democratic process conference provides? Or should we have faith in the NEC to mop up these issues, deliver policy and save us money that can be spent elsewhere.
This leads me to the UD fringe and zone report, which provided excellent examples of groups that have successfully bid for NUS funding through the “I Am The Change” scheme. I was already aware and AUCB SU has indeed benefited from UD’s commitment to unions singularly, but had not heard of this excellent programme that sought to unite unions and its members. Two examples strike me from fringe:
Firstly, the creation of the Edinburgh Students’ Forum, which has not only successfully united unions around that district, but also, crucially, mobilised students to vote in their local elections and fulfil their democratic rights on campus and beyond. This is where our members stop serving internally and manage to become a credit to our democratic society proving that perhaps our generation is not apathetic but rather time poor and lacking secure opportunities.
Ed Marsh was keen to remind the fringe, however, that the first step on this route is to have a key issue you wish to resolve and build from there, I found this personally when at the end of autumn term I discussed calling a conference of all HE and FE unions in Bournemouth and Poole but the question I could not answer was why, what beyond the obvious information exchange do we wish to gain from this? I failed to answer that question because whilst in principal it was an excellent idea to unite without a central drive, it would have been perhaps a unique experience lacking an obvious future.
The winner of I Am The Change was a lady who sought to recognise that access to education and learning goes beyond universities but manifests itself in all community outreach projects. What Courtney sought to achieve was beyond sabbatical politics – to keep a youth/community centre that was close to her family’s heart from being sold off into an uncertain future.
Self-admittedly Courtney said she began without a hope and yet achieved what seemed improbable- the youth centre was saved. ‘A small corner of a small town’ were Courtney’s words, and yet her achievement and UD’s commitment reminds us again that we as a student movement have a responsibility to all learners and therefore by reasonable extension the wider community. I’m sure, or I hope rather, that all unions had the opportunity to strike out for education this year and took your corner and held it however small or insignificant you may think that win was.
In his report which conference accepted, Ed Marsh highlighted not only “I Am The Change”, but also work with apprentices and many more examples of ‘out of the ordinary’ work undertaken in the last twelve months by UD. This work represents a keen appreciation of education as a whole, it also represents a challenge for UD and those sabbs who serve next year to continue to cast off useless definitions of what constitutes education and concentrate on taking back those corners and holding them successfully.
As I enter my last few months in the student movement (for now) all I can do is wish all of you luck and remind you that once conference closes we are all in this together.
My regards, David Pedrick