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Motions and Policy

Motions are presented when a students’ union makes a formal request to NUS-USI to develop a policy, or take action on a given issue.  Our policy is written and adapted every year by you, our members, and you have a right to provide input.  Every five years, policy lapses.  If you find this confusing, all will become clear by reading the conference motions guide.  You may also look at our current policy file.  

Here are constitutional amendments and motions submitted at NUS-USI conference 2017:

Constitutional amendments

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT 1 - PASSED

CA in regards to standing order 2 – submitted by NUS-USI Regional Executive Committee Procedure before women’s conference:
2.1 The Women’s Officer shall give written notice of the Women’s Conference to all Member Students’ Unions at least eight weeks and one day before the day on which the Conference is to be held.
2.2 i) Written notice of motions submitted by Member Students’ Unions shall reach Women’s Officer or her nominated agent at least five weeks before the Conference.
ii) A Member Students’ Union may submit up to three ordinary motions.
2.4 i) Emergency Motions may be submitted in writing to the Women’s Officer or her nominated agent up to 5 p.m., three days before the Conference.
ii) An Emergency Motion must satisfy the criteria of Standing Order 10.2.
iii) A Member Students’ Union may submit only one Emergency Motion.
2.5 The Women’s Officer shall rule out of order any motion or amendment which has not been passed by a women-only group or meeting which all women members of the Member Students’ Union are entitled to attend.
2.6 The Women’s Officer shall have the power to prioritise one motion for discussion at the Women’s Campaign Committee.
2.7 Members of the Women’s Campaign will not have voting rights at Women’s Conference but may be included in the voting delegations of their Member Union.
2.8 All other procedures shall follow the Standing Orders
To be removed and replaced with: -
Procedure before Liberation (Women’s, LGBT, BAEM, Disabled Students’, or Further Education) Conferences
2.1 The Liberation (Women’s, LGBT, BAEM, Disabled Students’, or Further Education) Officer shall give written notice of their Conferences to all Member Students’ Unions at least eight weeks and one day before the day on which the Conference is to be held.
2.2 i) Written notice of motions submitted by Member Students’ Unions shall reach the Liberation Officer or their nominated agent at least five weeks before the Conference.
ii) A Member Students’ Union may submit up to three ordinary motions.
2.4 i) Emergency Motions may be submitted in writing to the Liberation Officer or their nominated agent up to 5 p.m., three days before the Conference.
ii) An Emergency Motion must satisfy the criteria of Standing Order 10.2.
iii) A Member Students’ Union may submit only one Emergency Motion.
2.5 The Liberation Officer shall rule out of order any motion or amendment which has not been passed by a self-defining group or meeting which all self-defining members of the Member Students’ Union are entitled to attend.
2.6 The Liberation Officer shall have the power to prioritise one motion for discussion at their designated Campaign Committee.
2.7 Members of each of the Liberation Campaigns will not have voting rights at the Liberation Conferences but may be included in the voting delegations of their Member Union.
2.8 All other procedures shall follow the Standing Orders.

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT 2 - PASSED

CA on Policy Lapse - submitted by NUS-USI Regional Executive Committee

To delete text of standing order 14.1:
At the beginning of Conference, Steering Committee shall table those policies that have been in existence for five years or where last ratified under this Standing Order five years earlier. These shall be notified in advance and shall be prominently displayed at conference. and replace with: At the beginning of Conference, Steering Committee shall table those policies that have been in existence for three years or where last ratified under this Standing Order three years earlier. These shall be notified in advance and shall be prominently displayed at conference.

Motions

MOTION 1 – submitted by Ulster University SU - PASSED

Brexit

Conference notes:  On the 23 June 2016 the UK voted to leave the European Union with a 51.9% majority.

Conference believes:  Universities and FE colleges have inextricable links with the EU and there is no doubt that students and staff benefit from EU funds and projects. 

The potential impact of Brexit on higher education and young people is far reaching. 

As negotiation plans are being drawn up it's imperative that MLAs, MPs and MEPs are representing their constituents. It's imperative they are repeating young people and securing the best deal for students as the UK withdraws from the EU. 

Voters in Northern Ireland opted overwhelmingly to maintain a position within the EU. It is imperative that public representatives reflect this view and argue accordingly for a special position within the EU for Northern Ireland.

Conference resolves: 

The views of those in higher education and young people must be sought and considered, especially over the next two years. 

NUS-USI should lobby decision makers to deliver a deal with the EU which: 
• ensures the continuation of funding previously provided by the EU to higher education; 
• allows for easy collaboration with universities in the EU for study and research; 
• allows the continuation of student mobility both into and out of the UK.

MOTION 2 – submitted by Ulster University SU - PASSED

Consent survey mandate

Conference notes: The Association of American Universities conducted a survey of students at 27 universities across the US and uncovered nearly 1 in 4 undergraduate women were the victims of unwanted sexual contact, either by force or because they were unable to consent due to drugs or alcohol.  The survey collected responses online from 150,000 graduate and undergraduate students, approximately a 19% response rate from the 779,170 students who were asked to participate in the research. While the rates of reporting varied by institution, from a low of 17% to a high of 46%, the most common reason for not reporting it was that the respondent didn’t consider it “serious enough.” A third of those girls also felt “embarrassed, ashamed or [thought] it would be too emotionally difficult.”  While the most extensive research has been done surveying women students sexual assaults against men and transgender students occur and are to be condemned. 

Conference believes: 

NUS-USI have a duty of care and a duty to educate our students. Many are leaving Secondary School without a full understanding of consent due to poor sex and relationship education. Students should have a full understanding of the importance of consent and should know how to report a sexual assault if they are the victim of unwanted sexual contact.

Conference resolves: 

NUS USI should carry out a consent survey, focusing on HE and FE institutions, to gauge students understanding of sex and relationship education. NUS-USI should collate the finding and present them to government as part of efforts to lobby for the improvement of sex and relationship education in schools. The research may help shape the direction of the sexual health campaigns that some Students’ Unions may undertake. 

MOTION 3 – submitted by Ulster University SU - PASSED

Housing survey mandate

Conference notes: Students have far too often been mistreated and taken advantage of by renting agencies and landlords.  It should be noted that in NUS’ Homes Fit for Study research (2870 students – UK wide),

-    61% had damp, mold, or condensation in their home
-    24% had slugs, mice or other infestation
-    52% have felt uncomfortably cold in their home.

These are unacceptable standards of living. 

UUSU has experienced first-hand some of the issues relating to students not knowing their rights when it comes to renting for the first time. 

Conference believes: 

Students deserve and should have a right to good quality, affordable and suitable student accommodation. NUS-USI has a duty of educating our students and lobby for improvements in the standard of housing.

Conference resolves: 

NUS USI should carry out a housing survey across the region, focusing on HE and FE institutions, to find out the issues students face in renting accommodation. NUS-USI should then collate their finding and use the results to lobby for improvements to the private rental sector.  

MOTION 4 – submitted by Ulster University SU – PASSED

Trips to Israel

Conference notes: That each year the Union of Jewish students invite student leaders on free trips to Israel in order to campaign against and stifle Palestine solidarity activism within the student movement. 

That the Union of Jewish Students has active policy, 'to oppose BDS in all its forms' , which smears the BDS movement and is antithetical to the policies held by both NUS-USI and NUS in support of BDS.

That at the end of January 2017 the current NUS-USI president participated in one of these UJS trips to Israel with the Union of Jewish Students and that it is alleged they visited an illegal Israeli settlement 

That during the 2016-17 period, NUS-USI has a live policy ‘Justice and human rights for Palestine (2017)’, which resolves to adopt, implement and adhere to the non-violent and Palestinian-led Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign.
 
Conference believes:
 
That offers of fully-paid trips to Israel by organisations that advocate against furthering Palestinian human rights, liberation and justice are made specifically to student leaders because of their roles as elected representatives within the student movement in order to influence policy, undermine Palestine solidarity and promote positions that contribute to shutting down much needed Palestine solidarity activities. 

That by accepting a fully-paid trip to Israel, in the context of it being with an organisation that specifically advocates for Israel, elected student officers violate the very clear guidance from the BDS movement  and the policy on file which supports BDS. 

That for any clarifications and interpretations of the BDS policy on file, student officers within NUS-USI should engage directly with the BDS movement and also consult with the wider membership.

That visiting Israel-Palestine in order to learn more about the conflict is not an issue or violation of BDS; but rather the agenda underpinning free trips that are offered to students and student leaders by organisations is and thus must be carefully considered after consultation with relevant stakeholders.

That NUS-USI should encourage solidarity visits to Occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) and Israel as long as such trips ensure non-participation in activities sponsored or supported -- directly or indirectly -- by the Israeli government or any of its agencies or organisations seeking to stifle Palestine solidarity.  

That trips to Israel-Palestine should, ideally, occur under the auspices of ethical organisations that do not seek to undermine Palestine solidarity and which promote genuine approaches to human rights, social justice and an end to violent conflict. 

That a boycott of Israel, as defined by the BDS call and guidelines, is explicit in terms of Israel’s entire oppressive regime, including all of the Israeli companies and institutions that are involved in violations of international law, and is a reasonable non-violent activity that can be taken to register opposition to such crimes. 

That the Palestinian-led BDS campaign does not target anyone or anything based on identity, religious background, ethnicity or race; but is actually based solely on actions, political views and complicity in denying Palestinian rights. 

That BDS is a strategy for effective solidarity, not a dogma or ideology and certainly not an attack or threat upon Jewish communities or individuals and absolutely doesn't require student officers to boycott communal Jewish organisations or the Union of Jewish Students in its entirety - only it's Israel advocacy activities.
 
That it remains unclear where the Union of Jewish Students and other organisations receive their funding in order to carry forward Israel advocacy activities and trips to Israel.

That the UJS and other organisations should reveal all their funding sources publicly for transparency and accountability reasons. 
 
Conference resolves:

That NUS-USI elected officers should not accept fully-paid trips to Israel offered by organisations that are advocating against furthering Palestinian human rights, liberation and justice. 

That should those bound by NUS-USI policy mandate wish to travel to Israel and Palestine then due consideration and diligence must be taken, including consultation with the BDS movement and the NUS-USI membership.

That visits to illegal Israeli settlements on any kind of trip to Israel and Palestine cannot be perceived as an act in the best interests of the student membership, especially Palestinian students in Northern Ireland and trips to illegal settlements are not acceptable. 

To condemn student executive officers accepting paid trips to Israel provided by organisations that actively advocate against furthering Palestinian human rights, liberation and justice.

That NUS-USI commends the work of the Union of Jewish students and shall continue working with the Union of Jewish Students in areas unrelated to Israel-Palestine and that elected officers should aim to draw a clear distinction of non-participation where the Israel advocacy policies of UJS are concerned.

MOTION 5 – submitted by NUS-USI Regional Executive Committee - PASSED

March for Science

Conference notes:

1.    The election of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States of America.
2.    Earth Day takes place on April 22nd.  

Conference believes:

1.    The election of President Trump has invigorated a growing movement from across society to advocate for the value of science and evidence-based policymaking. 
2.    This growing movement has particular relevance in light of the potential implications that the new US administration could have for global efforts to tackle climate change.
3.    Plans are underway to hold events across the USA and globally to demonstrate how recent policy changes have given cause for concern in terms of how seriously evidence-led policy is taken and the implications that has for global issues such as climate change.  

Conference resolves:

1.    The NUS-USI President to make contact with local campaign groups, activists, scientists, researchers, civil society networks and US citizens within Northern Ireland to determine the appetite for local action in solidarity with campaigners in America and elsewhere around the world.
2.    That if there is a clear appetite for local action, to work to organise such activity to coincide with Earth Day on April 22nd 2017.

MOTION 6 – submitted by NUS-USI Regional Executive Committee – PASSED BUT PART REMOVED

Parts
Point 3 remove from ‘but also ensuring that it cannot be used as an undemocratic veto’
Conference voted to remove part - PASSED

Petitions of concern

Conference notes:

1.    The petition of concern mechanism within the Northern Ireland Assembly was created under provisions within the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement specifically to protect the rights of minorities. 
2.    The petition of concern mechanism was discussed as part of Fresh Start negotiations in 2015 but was left unchanged. 

Conference believes:

1.    At its creation, nobody envisaged that any one party would ever hold enough seats within the Northern Ireland Assembly to use a petition of concern on their own.
2.    In recent years the petition of concern mechanism has been used in a way which runs in contradiction to the spirit in which it was intended, such as being used to block marriage equality where there was an outright majority for it within the Assembly.

Conference resolves:

3.    NUS-USI should call for the petition of concern to be reformed, ensuring there are robust protections for the rights of minorities.
4.    NUS-USI should also call for enhanced checks and balances for the Assembly Speaker in relation to the conditions that must be met before they can accept a petition of concern.

MOTION 7 – submitted by NUS-USI Regional Executive Committee - PASSED

Teaching excellence framework

Conference notes:

1.    The Westminster Government have, in the last year, sought to carry out the biggest overhaul to Higher Education in a decade.
2.    Part of the reforms seek to introduce a, ‘Teaching Excellence Framework’ (TEF) as a means to measure the quality of education in Universities across the UK.
3.    Much criticism has been levelled at the proposed metrics within the TEF as not being appropriate to effectively or accurately measure the quality of teaching and learning, and rather are being used as a smokescreen to further marketise education and allow higher levels of tuition fees. 

Conference believes:

1.    At the time of writing, none of the Institutions in Northern Ireland who are eligible to take part in the TEF have currently agreed to participate.
2.    In Northern Ireland we have currently secured guarantees that, should an Institution here enter the TEF, there will be no link between TEF awards and tuition fee levels. 
3.    This in itself is a positive development, but the TEF in its current form is still inadequate at best and poses risks and challenges to the wider tertiary education sector.

Conference resolves:

5.    The NUS-USI Executive to carry out work to compose an alternative Teaching Excellence Framework, working alongside students’ unions and UCU to determine a framework for what good quality teaching and learning means, without encouraging further marketisation of our education system. 

MOTION 8 – submitted by NUS-USI Regional Executive Committee - PASSED

Implications of Brexit for the student movement

Conference notes:

1.    That on June 23rd 2016 a UK-wide referendum on membership of the European Union was held.
2.    The UK turnout was 72.2% and delivered a 51.9% leave result, with 48.1% voting to remain.
3.    Regionally, the turnout here was 62.7% with 56% voting to remain and 44% voting to leave.
4.    Scotland, Gibraltar and the London region also voted by majorities to remain whilst the remainder of England and Wales voted to leave. 

Conference believes:

1.    Clearly, the various regions of the UK have a different view in regards to their future relationship with the European Union.
2.    NUS-USI should prioritise working to eliminate or at least mitigate the potential negative implications that leaving the European Union will have for students, for higher and further education and for Northern Ireland generally.
3.    Some of the specific areas of concern relate to:
(i)    Human Rights & Equality under the Good Friday Agreement
(ii)    Continued access to EU funding
(iii)    Freedom of movement for students and academics across Europe and continued access to the Eramus/Eramus+ programme
(iv)    Retention of the Common Travel Area and the freedom of movement across the Island of Ireland
(v)    The ‘right to remain’ for EU nationals living in Northern Ireland and throughout the UK.
(vi)    Workers’ rights, and the implications any lessening of those rights could have for students and apprentices.

Conference resolves:

1.    For the NUS-USI President and Regional Executive Committee to make use of all possible networks, within NUS UK, USI and the European Students’ Union to elevate the specific and unique circumstances that Northern Ireland now finds itself in regards to the areas outlined in Conference Believes 3. (i) – (vi). 

MOTION 9 – submitted by North West Regional College SU - PASSED

To create joint funding for Republic of Ireland students in FE

Conference notes:  Outside of the Back to Education scheme which only applies to those over the age of 20 and with no employment for at least 9 months, Republic of Ireland students are not entitled to any funding for FE courses.

Conference believes: 
Students from the Republic of Ireland receive no financial support from either government. To use Derry as an example, if a student is living in Letterkenny and studying a full-time course in Derry they may have to pay €50.50 a week travel on the bus. This could equate to over €1,800 for the academic year. Currently, if a student moves up to Derry they will be eligible to receive housing benefit and pay subsidised rent. This service will cease to exist once the Universal Credit scheme is introduced. With such a large amount of students crossing the border, an attempt should be made by both governments to support students. EMA students only receive a small payment but it should be equalled for Republic of Ireland students. Students living in Northern Ireland would see their money spend in Northern Ireland i.e. living costs, rent. While students living in the Republic would see their money spent on transport or living costs. This is liquid income designed to alleviate pressure off parents/ the student. 

Conference resolves:

FE Student Unions should meet with TDs and elected MLAs and lobby for financial support for students. To begin, a cross-border financed support fund for students from the Republic. Students receiving Back to Education or EMA should not be eligible for this fund. The fund will not cover all expenses but rather provide a small amount for students on a bi-weekly basis and should be based on attendance. The amount of £20 per week will not cover all expenses but will help relieve pressure on students struggling financially.

MOTION 10 – submitted by Belfast Met SU - PASSED

Special status for Northern Ireland in Brexit negotiations

Conference believes: 
1. The majority of the population in Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU in the referendum. 
2. It is clear that we will be at the bottom of the list in the negotiations for the British exit of the EU. 
3. Northern Ireland will loose £2.5 billion in funding for cross-commumity programs that help keep young people away from paramilitaries. 
4. It could lead to a 'hard border' with the Republic, which will lead to further degeneration of relations between the unionist and nationalist communities. 

Conference further believes:
1. The economy of Northern Ireland will be severely affected if not given any representation in the brexit negotiations. 
2. Funding for all institutions, including HE and FE, will be in jeopardy. 

Conference resolves:
1. Campaign for better representation of the interests of the students and people of Northern Ireland in negotiations. 
2. Provide information to students on the possible effects, both positive and negative of Brexit. 
3. To provide students with information involved with a border poll should one be called. 

MOTION 11 – submitted by Queen’s University Belfast SU - PASSED

Off-campus conduct regulations

Conference notes: 

1. The important role that our further and higher education institutions, and the student movement, play within the local community.
2.  Those who commit criminal acts or are involved in anti-social behaviour should be dealt with by the appropriate statutory body and reprimanded in accordance with the rule of law.
3.  That some higher educations in Northern Ireland impose draconian financial and academic penalties on students for off-campus behaviour that often far exceed the action taken by external agencies such as the Police, or the City Council, for the same, or a similar, offence. 
4.  These institutions have no statutory, moral, or ethical right to do so.

Conference believes:

That NUS-USI should play a constructive role in working with the Further and Higher Education institutions, local residents, and the statutory authorities to ensure that Northern Ireland is a safe and peaceful place to live, work and study.

Conference further believes:

Student activity that has taken place outside of an institution’s property should not be subject to the relevant institution’s conduct regulations, unless the students in question have been representing the applicable institution in an official capacity.

Conference resolves:

To mandate the NUS-USI President, and the organisation, to work with local unions to assist them in any campaigning activity relating to their institutions conduct regulations.

MOTION 12 – submitted by Queen’s University Belfast SU - PASSED

Brexit

Conference recognises:

-    That on 23rd June 2016, the United Kingdom voted in a referendum to leave the membership of the European Union.
-    That 56% of the electorate in Northern Ireland voted to Remain in that referendum.
-    That young people and students in particular voted overwhelmingly to Remain within the EU on 23rd June 2016, in Northern Ireland, and across the UK. 
-    That, as a result, there exists a democratic deficit between the north of Ireland and other regions in the UK.
-    That due to this democratic deficit, there exists a possibility that the rights of students, and the values of the students’ movement in Northern Ireland, may be diminished, neglected or ignored during Brexit negotiations between the UK and the EU. 
-    That there will also be a number of worrying ramifications for the Republic of Ireland.
-    That there has already been a fall in the number of international students, particularly EU students, applying to study in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Congress is concerned that: 

-    That withdrawal from the EU will have profound political, economic and social effects on our society, and on opportunities for students. 
-    That hugely successful initiatives for student mobility such as the Erasmus+ scheme may be severely curtailed.
-    That the number of students who are from Northern Ireland and want to study in the Republic of Ireland, or vice versa, will reduce as a result of withdrawing from the EU.
-    That access to healthcare via the European Health Insurance Card will be under threat.
-    That the number of people from the island of Ireland who want to access reproductive healthcare in Great Britain will now face additional barriers due to withdrawing from the EU.
-    That EU nationals, including students and academics, living in the UK may be used as ‘negotiating capital’ in Brexit negotiations and their ‘right to remain’ will be threatened. 
-    That civic society in Northern Ireland, and the needs and interests of our society and citizens will be neglected during Brexit negotiations. 
-    That issues of border control and immigration in Britain will have a profound impact on the Irish border and on citizens who live there, with freedom of movement curtailed, and trade on the island hampered.

Congress instructs: 

-    The NUS-USI President and NUS-USI Officer Board to actively campaign to ensure that the rights and values of the student movement are not diminished or ignored, and are reflected and promoted, during Brexit negotiations between the UK and the EU, and during any negotiation between Governments in London and Dublin. 
-    These rights, opportunities and values include, but are not limited to: 
o    Access to EU funding and participation in EU teaching, learning, travel and research programs. 
o    Freedom of movement through Europe, especially for students and academics  
o    Protection of Equality Legislation and the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement in Northern Ireland. 
o    The ‘right to remain’ for EU nationals living in Northern Ireland and throughout the UK. 
o    Retaining the Erasmus+ Scheme 
o    Access to European Healthcare 
o    Retention of the Common Travel Area, and the right to unhindered free movement, across the island of Ireland 
-    NUS-USI President and NUS-USI Officer Board to highlight the democratic deficit that exists between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, and to raise awareness of its implications on life for students and citizens living here.

MOTION 13 – submitted by Queen’s University Belfast SU - PASSED

Irish Language Act

This conference recognises:

-    That an Irish Language Act was promised within Annex B of the 2006 St. Andrew's Agreement but that it has still not been passed within the Assembly.
-    That every other region in the UK has passed a minority language act to protect and enhance native and minority languages, and provide adequate service provision for speakers of these languages.
-    The Irish language is an official EU language, is spoken, used or understood by over 180,000 citizens, including thousands of schoolchildren educated through the medium of Irish.

This conference welcomes:

-    The legal decision on the 3rd March in judicial review brought by Conradh na Gaeilge which condemned the Stormont Assembly for failing in its legal imperative to legislate for an Irish Language Act.

This conference calls for:

-    NUS-USI President and Campaigns & Citizenship Officer to support An Dream Dearg (alongside USI) and other civic groups and activist networks in campaigning for an Irish Language Act in Northern Ireland.
-    NUS-USI President and Campaigns & Citizenship Officer to lobby local political representatives to fulfil their legal requirement and legislate for an Irish Language Act as soon as possible.

MOTION 14 – submitted by Queen’s University Belfast SU - PASSED

Trade Union solidarity

This conference recognises:

-    The widespread exploitation of labour and the growing casualisation of labour, particularly young workers
-    That the interests and values of the trade union and students’ union movement are invariably aligned, as they both seek a democratic, socially just and equal society and fight for members’ rights and progressive social change
-    The solidarity and support historically afforded to students’ unions by the trade union movement, both domestically and internationally
-    That students’ unions are stronger and more effective as campaigning bodies when embedded within the wider civic struggle for progressive change, allowing them to draw on support and solidarity from allies across society.

Conference also recognises:

-    That in the context of higher education, the marketisation of HEIs has led to a proliferation of casualisation, corporate opacity, overworked staff, gender inequality in pay and promotion, attacks on academic freedom, damage to staff wellbeing and a redefinition of academia
-    This attack on staff wellbeing, and the unions that represent them, threatens the quality of education received by our student members and the overall University community
-    That students’ union are ethically and politically obligated to oppose these attacks on the rights of academic workers
-    The most effective way of combatting marketisation is building alliances with staff unions in Universities to combine the voices and campaigning resources of staff and student representatives in offering a vision of a democratic, public University.

Conference instructs

-    NUS-USI President and Campaigns & Citizenship Officer to build stronger and more formal links with the University & Colleges Union (USU) to oppose marketisation of higher education and to protect the rights and experiences of staff and students
-    NUS-USI President and Campaigns & Citizenship Officer to build stronger and more formal links with the wider trade union movement to engage with and protect student workers and non-academic staff.
-    NUS-USI Women’s Officer campaign alongside the trade union movement on challenges and issues faced by women student workers
-    NUS-USI President and Campaigns & Citizenship Officer to offer active public support and solidarity to the trade union movement, build on the existing agreement with NIC-ICTU, and support instances of industrial action by student workers or otherwise.

Emergency motions

EM1: Students and workers - Fairer PhD terms and conditions - PASSED

Proposed by: Danielle Roberts Student Number: B00601771

Conference notes: 

On 21 March 2017 Ulster University Student’s Union passed policy committing to working with Trade Unions on issues including PhD terms and conditions. This policy is similar to the Staff- Student Alliance policy passed by Queen’s University Student’s Union on 7 December 2016. 

Many PhD students at Queen’s University and Ulster University are in receipt of a scholarship from the Department of the Economy.

PhD Students are not classed as university employees, however many are paid to teach undergraduates. This teaching can give PhD Students valuable work experience.

PhD students at Queen’s University Belfast are paid £33 per hour for teaching, and PHD Students at Ulster University are paid £15.20 per hour with some students receiving a lower £10.80 demonstrator rate. This rate is per hour of teaching an often does not include any preparation or marking time. 

The UCU published a report in 2016 ‘Undervalued, Overworked,
Taken for Granted’ criticizing the rate of pay for PhD students at Queens University (http://ucuatqub.blogspot.co.uk/2016/10/text-here-from-our-phd-student-report.html).

PhD students pay extension fees if they submit in a fourth year. At Queen’s University Belfast the fee is £290 for the fourth year, at Ulster University the extension is free for the first 4 months, the fee is £630 every subsequent 3 months.

PhD students are not entitled to any work related benefits such as statutory sick pay, paid paternity leave or shared parental leave. While there is a provision for Maternity Leave in the Department of the economy scholarship, this is only during the funding period and not in any extension period. 

Conference believes: 

PhD students need the support of both their Student’s Union and Trade Union to campaign for better terms and conditions. The commitment by Student’s Union to work with Trade Unions as outlined above should strengthened by action at NUS-USI level. 

PhD students should be treated equally regardless of the institution that they are studying at.

When preparation and marking time are taken into account many PhD students are earning below minimum wage. UCU suggests 5.5 hours or preparation work per hour of teaching.

Punitive extension fees detrimentally impact the mental health of PhD students.

There is a disparity in the distribution of Research Training and Support funds within and between institutions.

Conference resolves: 

To investigate why there is a disparity between the treatment of PhD students at Queen’s University and Ulster University in relation to payment, fees, and support funding.

To lobby Queen’s University and Ulster University for a fair rate of pay for PhD Students
.
To lobby Queen’s University and Ulster University for a reduction in extension fees.

To lobby the Department of the Economy for better terms and conditions for PhD students.

To work with the relevant Trade Unions to achieve these aims, in accordance with policy passed by both Ulster University Student’s Union and Queen’s University Student’s Union.

EM2: ANTI-SEMITISM - PASSED

Proposed by: Gary Spedding, Ulster University

Conference notes:

That ‘anti-Semitic attacks are on the rise in Britain’, with incidents such as brick attacks on synagogues, anti-Jewish graffiti and even bomb threats occurring in recent years. 

The Community Security Trust (CST) recorded 924 anti-Semitic incidents across the United Kingdom during 2015.2

Northern Ireland’s only Rabbi, David Singer, told BBC Radio Ulster's Sunday Sequence on Sunday 2nd October 2016 that he has received suspicious e-mails and came across anti-Jewish graffiti in the centre of Belfast.3

The national student movement has been rocked by allegations of anti-Semitism and the concerns of Jewish students have been repeatedly downplayed by some of those in leadership positions.4

NUS motion 404 ‘Anti-Semitism on campus’ resolved to lobby Students’ Unions in order to encourage them to have clearer policies on responding to anti-Semitic incidents and situations in which Jewish students feel threatened.5

April Rosenblum, in her 2007 pamphlet ‘the past didn’t go anywhere: making resistance to anti-Semitism part of all our movements’, expands in great detail on the nuances surrounding modern day anti-Jewish oppression and why it is absolutely vital to integrate a radical analysis of, and opposition to, all manifestations of anti-Jewish hatred and oppression into the work we already carry forward.6

Conference believes:

Regardless of whether an anti-Semitism problem exists or not on our own campuses it would still be advisable to hold a policy that addresses anti-Semitism on campus, provides a workable definition of anti-Semitism and gives guidance on what steps can be taken to combat this particularly odious form of hatred. 

All forms of racism and oppression are abhorrent and should be uncompromisingly opposed with as much effort and energy as can be mustered.

Anti-Semitism is a specific form of racism, relating to Jews and Judaism.

Anti-Jewish oppression is the system of ideas passed down through a society's institutions to enable scapegoating of Jews, and the ideological or physical targeting of Jews that results from that.

The definition of anti-Semitism has been debated and disputed as a result of political influences relating to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

A workable definition of anti-Semitism can be found provided by noted scholar Brian Klug who has defined anti-Semitism as a ‘form of hostility towards Jews as Jews, in which a Jew is perceived as something other than what they are’.7

Anti-oppression ethics, coupled with a thorough understanding that multiple oppressions can manifest at one time and are often complex and multi-layered, is crucially important in our efforts to acknowledge anti-Semitism as still being a major problem in society today.

That anti-Semitism includes, but is not limited to:

(i)    Questioning the loyalty of Jews to their state of citizenship simply on the basis of their Jewish identity, which includes claims that Jews as a collective or a community engage in efforts to subvert or mislead the general population, as well as the claim that Jews are more loyal to the state of Israel than their country of citizenship, is an anti-Semitic position to hold;
(ii)    Claiming or making any effort to create a reality in which Jews do not have the same rights as any other religious, cultural or ethnic group, including the right to free speech, free practice of religion, free use of native languages (i.e. Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino, etc.) and self-determination;
(iii)    Denying, trivializing and misconstruing the Nazi Holocaust. This includes denying the fact, scope, method, or motivation for the genocide of six million Jews at the hands of the National Socialist regime. It also includes the accusation that Jews or the state of Israel have fabricated, cause or over-exaggerated the Holocaust;
(iv)    Calling for, aiding or justifying the killing or harming of Jews for the sake of their Jewish religion, ethnicity or identity;
(v)    Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as Jews or for being Jewish. This includes accusations of Jewish control of the world, of our political structures and government, the media, as well as blaming Jews collectively for imagined and real atrocities;
(vi)    ‘Equating Jews or maliciously equating Jewish organisations and the polity of the state of Israel with the Nazi Regime. This includes, but is not limited to equating Zionism with Nazism and claiming that ‘History is repeating itself’ with regards to the Nazi Holocaust and the state of Israel. This also includes using Jewish symbols and religious imagery alongside Nazi symbols and imagery. However, this does NOT necessarily include reasonable analogies between historical events’;
(vii)    Using Jewish symbols to antagonize, harass, and intimidate Jewish students.
(viii)    Assuming that because a person is Jewish that they will automatically hold particular political views and positions regarding Zionism and Israel;
(ix)    Demanding a Jewish person or group of Jews collectively to present an opinion or position on the Israel-Palestine conflict and where those demands are often aggressive, intimidating and harassing;
(x)    Labelling Jews that hold differing political positions on Zionism and Israel as ‘kapos’, ‘self-hating Jews’ or ‘traitors’;
(xi)    Deliberately using terms ‘Zio’ and ‘Zionist’ as pejorative terms of abuse in order to isolate and attack Jewish students and members of Jewish communities.
Criticism of the Israeli government, its policies and actions are not inherently anti-Semitic and neither is reasoned criticism of Zionism and its impact in Palestine and upon the Palestinian people.

Conference resolves:

NUSUSI is mandated to publicly oppose actions on campus that are anti-Semitic based on the aforementioned definitions.

NUSUSI be mandated to publish a bi-annual report detailing all incidents of racism, including anti-Semitic incidents and instances of anti-Jewish oppression.

NUSUSI executive should communicate and engage with the Jewish Community in Northern Ireland - particularly the Rabbi and the Belfast Synagogue in order to discuss issues affecting them and also Jewish students in Northern Ireland.

NUSUSI is mandated to work with relevant educational institutions in order to address racism and anti-Semitism on campus and methods to alleviate it.

The work of organisations such as Jewdas8, NUS, Jewdents9, Community Security Trust (CST) and the Union of Jewish Students is to be consulted when developing work against anti-Semitism so as to ensure resources are provided to help Students to understand the nuances and fully comprehend these policies.

The pamphlet of April Rosenblum10 is viewed as a key resource and must be made available (once permissions have been sought and granted) for students and relevant parties to access on the NUSUSI Website, under a section specifically designed to tackle all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism, in order that the NUSUSI might better promote and enhance legitimate debate regarding the morality, problems and human rights issues surrounding international conflicts whilst also remaining resolutely committed to opposing the manifestation of illegitimate and illegal acts of anti-Jewish oppression on campus.

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  http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/israelgaza-conflict-rise-of-antisemitic-attacks-in-uk-as-crisis-rages-in-the-middle-east-9631174.html
2 https://cst.org.uk/news/blog/2016/02/04/cst-antisemitic-incidents-report-2015-published-today
3 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-37533746
4 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-37489745 
5 https://nusdigital.s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/document/documents/24818/Welfare_Live_Policy_201417.pdf 
6 http://www.buildingequality.us/prejudice/antisemitism/rosenblum/the-past.pdf
7 See Brian Klug, ‘The collective Jew: Israel and the new Anti-Semitism’, Patterns of Prejudice, vol. 37, no. 2, 2003, 117-138.
8 http://jewdas.org/how-to-criticise-israel-without-being-anti-semitic/ 
9 https://facebook.com/jewdents/
10 http://www.buildingequality.us/prejudice/antisemitism/rosenblum/the-past.pdf