NUS Women’s Officer elections: Kelley Temple speaks to NCAFC Women about cuts, free education and the left in NUS

Kelley Temple is standing against incumbent Estelle Hart for NUS Women’s Officer. NCAFC Women wrote to Kelley, as the more left-wing of the two candidates and as the challenger, to ask her some questions about where she stands so we can discuss whether NCAFC Women will support Kelley’s campaign. Here’s what she said…

1. CUTS

Where do you stand on cuts? Do you accept that there need to be any cuts to jobs and services at all? If so, why? What do you think of the Labour Party leadership’s support for slower and smaller, but still very big and very fast, cuts? Do you think that Labour councils should refuse to implement the cuts?

I believe that this ‘austerity/cuts’ agenda is actually about restructuring the entire country even further towards a neoliberal, free market economy, disinvesting in public services and trying to destroy the public sector. I reject the ‘austerity agenda’ as invalid and do think we need to re balance who is paying into society and the welfare state, so that the rich contribute more.

I think that the biggest concerns I have about councils implementing cuts is that they will cut the services which the most vulnerable and disadvantaged use, as they are the least likely to shout out about it. This is why the liberation movements need to fight against these cuts because they affect women, LGBT, black and disabled people the most. We have to means to stand up against it and its time we did it seriously on our campuses as the national women’s movement.

I do think some cuts should be made, but I think they should be to in areas such as the bonus culture, cuts to the money being given to companies to profit from ‘services’ which the state should be providing, the defense budget and to stop wasting money on illegal invasions and wars. The Labor Party has demonstrated that they are following a neo liberal agenda. I think they should be ashamed to call themselves the labour party, when they can’t even bring themselves to challenge the economic system which thrives on inequality and propose a genuine alternative to the tories and fib dems.

I recognize that the only way which councils who will be taking a cut in their funds can raise revenue is through increasing business rates or increasing council tax. I think that we should increase business rates and in particular for middle and large size businesses but im not so sure about council tax. My understanding is that council tax in England is currently frozen apart from inflation, however council tax itself is not progressive and I would rather we had an income tax which would be a much fairer tax system, unlike the one we currently have which penalizes the poorest for living in central locations, closer to a high concentration of work, instead of looking at people’s incomes. Labour’s polling increased the week they came out in opposition to the NHS ‘reforms’, people are looking for an alternative, but Labour isnt providing that.

2. STUDENT STRUGGLES

Were you involved in the student struggles of November 2010 – January 2011, and if so how? What do you think of NUS’s role in and response to those struggles? Did you attend the NCAFC demonstration in London on 9 November 2011? Do you support the demand for an NUS demonstration in the first term next year?

I was part of the leadership in NUS Scotland which mobilised over 2000 students from Scotland to attend the national demo in November 2010. I also was in favour of having another national demo in this year, and was dissapointed that National Conference voted against having one; however I didn’t get to vote on that as I was not on NEC at the time as despite being a full time officer in NUS Scotland. I was only able to attend National Conference as an observer. I think that after the momentum we built up after the national demo and all the press coverage the demo and Milbank gave NUS, it was pretty much left there. Aaron Porter couldn’t come up with any coherent way forward after the demo, and we didn’t even undermine the regime, never mind fight against it. I did not attend the NCAFC demo in 2011, only because I was in Bulgaria at the time fighting for women only quotas at the European Student Union as part of my work fighting for women’s liberation outwith the UK. If I had been in the UK, I would most definitely have been at the demo, and NUS Scotland Women’s Committee, under my leadership, backed the demo. In terms of backing a national demonstration next year, yes, I do.

3. THE LEFT IN NUS

There have been a number of clashes between the leadership and the left on NUS national executive since winter 2010. What has been your role in these clashes? Are there any issues, arguments or votes you particularly want to mention? What, in general, do you think of the current NUS leadership?

Clashes have always existed – that’s not bad thing. NUS needs a cross section of leadership and real debate, which wouldn’t exist if we didn’t have a difference in politics. Clashes became worse because of poor former relationship with Aaron [Porter] and his lack of respect for the left’s agenda, now there is a more mature relationship and a much more honest one. I believe with Liam [Burns] as president there has been more coherence and constructive debate, and the move to walkout and coordinated action on coming clean about cuts is a welcome one, however I fundamentally disagree with him on graduation tax. My first NEC was in July, and my biggest clash with the leadership was on the Palestine/Israel motion last semester. I voted for the free Palestine amendment and against the final motion, which is the opposite way from my opponent.

4. STUDENT-WORKER SOLIDARITY

What was your attitude to the June 30 and November 30 strikes to defend pensions? What do you think about Unison and other unions calling the campaign off? What do you think about supporting strikes in general? Do you support UCU’s campaign in defence of pensions, including a possible marking and assessment boycott?

I agree with the strikes to defend pensions. I support strikes in general. I support the UCU’s campaign to defend pensions, however I also feel strongly that it is important that unions talk to and engage with student unions before deciding action, to ensure unions can provide solidarity.

5. FREE EDUCATION

Do you support free education for all, like the NCAFC and on paper at least NUS Women’s Campaign, or a graduate tax, like the NUS leadership, or what? Do you support a universal, non-means-tested maintenance grant? Do you agree we need to oppose all private providers in HE and demand 100% publicly-owned and funded universities?

I believe education should be funded by a progressive income tax. I don’t believe in a graduate tax. I understand the argument people like Liam Burns make that without a progressive taxation system it is unjust that only the middle and upper classes are able to access education so we should make them contribute the most back into the education system for those who are less wealthy through graduate tax. However, I think the case we should be making is that we need to fight for free education, fighting for that progressive taxation to fund it and more radical measures on widening access. For example, I have been leading on widening access in Scotland through the Scottish Funding Council’s Access and Inclusion Committee in the fight for contextual admissions, widening access outcome agreements and tough penalties for colleges and unis who fail to meet their targets as well as fines being conditional to the institution’s core funding. All of which we are now introducing in Scotland. #win
I support a universal non means tested grant, especially when we take into account the needs of those students within liberation groups e.g. LGBT and estrangement however I have been put in the position before of having to decide between a universal entitlement meaning that the poorest students get the same as millionaire students, or a means tested system which gives the poorest students more money than a universal grant, and mean they are more likely to be able to access their education and graduate. That is never an easy call, when your principles and practicality feel like they are conflicting. With the parent trap I argued for and won a non means tested entitlement grant for lone student parents, which is great, but if I had to forfeit the poorest students in the next few years for the hope of a universal grant in 10 or 20, I wont say I would never vote or push for a means tested system depending on exactly which aspect of funding and the intricacies of both the student support system and the benefit system overlapping we are talking about, for example if a means test would actually be more beneficial to a specific group of students than a universal entitlement, in terms of how that would impact their benefits (negatively), then I would opt for means test.

We must oppose all private providers of education; education is a right not a privilege. All universities and colleges should be 100% publicly owned.

6. SCHOOL EDUCATION

What is your attitude to academies, grammar schools and religious schools? Would you support the demand to scrap all these and replace them with a single system of comprehensive community schools for all? What is your attitude to school students being allowed to form student unions and affiliate to NUS?

I believe schools should be comprehensive state funded where religion is taught within religious education alongside all faiths and none. The only aspect that im unsure of and don’t know where I stand is in terms of schools for disabled children, as the disabled people I know have mixed opinions on the issue, however ideally all schools would be fully accessible for disabled children and young people. I am in favour of School students should be able to affiliate to NUS. They are students and also deserve meaningful representation.

7. OUR JOBS AND SERVICES

Do you support the demand for heavily increased taxation of the rich and business to expand public services? What about the demand to genuinely and permanently nationalise the banks, sack their bosses and merge them to create a single public bank providing a decent savings, pensions and mortgage service for all?

Yes to heavily increased taxation. The ‘rich’ only get rich because they profit from the work and systems put in place and paid for by the rest of society, they don’t get there ‘on their own’. So they should pay back into that society. On banks, I really don’t see a better solution since the banks like RBS are mostly nationalised anyway, but we are paying for the risk while the profits are privatised.
With the cuts to long-term care services more women will end up taking this, affecting their engagement in work and education – this is likely to be one of the biggest consequences of the cuts.

Who do you think this will hit the most? What policies would you advocate to deal with it?

Obviously the cuts will hit the most disadvantaged: BME women, disabled, LGBT, poor women, Muslim women, working class women, women who are carers and women who are migrants. I think we need to start advocating the social justice case in a way which we utilise community movements, students unions, trade unions and, start making the economic case (it makes sense, even in a neo lib capitalist system to provide the finances to support vulnerable groups, since the consequences are much more expensive as a result, therefore false economy) and make sure that those vulnerable groups are represented and supported in the fight to protect their right to life with dignity. Cuts need to be made from the wealthy, not the vulnerable. When a choice has to be made, the cut should be made to those with the most recourse, or in the most dire of situations, start means testing to ensure that the most vulnerable are protected.

8. SEX WORK

What is your attitude to demands for decriminalisation of sex work and to sex workers’ unions?

I am in favour of decriminalisation because I don’t think that women and other sex workers should be persecuted and prosecuted, for facing systemic inequalities and oppression. This is an area where I have never been 100% sure because I feel that sex work sexualises women’s inequality however it is important that we don’t exclude students in sex work, they are our members and that the priority of our campaign’s focus should be on decriminalising workers and the safety of students involved in sex work. I believe that sex workers unions should never include pimps, only sex workers. Sex workers unions should be representing sex workers only.

10. TRANSGENDER LIBERATION

What is your stance on trans rights/liberation?

I believe the self definition aspect of the women’s campaign has to encompass a safe space for genderqueer/non-binary/genderfluid/gender-questioning people who also self-define as women or as being oppressed as women. The way a member of committee was investigated for questions around their right to self define into the campaign by democratic procedures committee (!), and not being able to make a statement on it is a disgrace. The NUS Women’s Campaign should be a space for non cis self defining women to be part of and we can only call ourselves a national campaign if we represent all people who don’t benefit from male privilege, and are a trans inclusive space.

11. YOU AND YOUR RECORD

What in your record as a student and feminist activist and as NUS Scotland Women’s Officer are you most proud of? What mistakes do you think you’ve learned from?

Most proud of: Forcing Bill Aitken MSP (Then convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee) to resign after he made rape victim blaming comments such as ‘women make up rape so that their boyfriends don’t find out they have cheated’ and in reference to a woman raped in an alleyway, that she was probably a prostitute anyway. We came together with other sections of Scottish civic society to demand that he resign from the justice committee as a victim blamer has no place making decisions on rape and domestic violence legislation and no public servant should be allowed to hold such disgusting views of women and contribute to the rape culture. Also, watching women’s officers in Scotland fight and win in their unions on zero tolerance and winning the arguments and changes on their campuses. Im also very proud of getting 40% women on University Courts in the University Governance review in Scotland.
Mistakes: I used to apologise for getting emotional or crying in public settings when I got angry or passionate. I learned I don’t have to and wont.

You describe yourself as a socialist feminist. What do you mean by that?

Socialist feminist: because we cant liberate women by eliminating patriarchy culturally but not economically. We also can’t support a system which inherently exploits people if we believe in equality. When women have their choices limited, when they are exploited and the economic system reinforces their inequality, it is not enough to fight just against the patriarchy while ignoring the way that the economic situation of women helps create and sustain that oppression.

How would you approach acting on policy with was not in accordance with your own personal beliefs?

Acting on policy not my beliefs: yes I would if that was my mandate from women students, however I have never been in the position where I feel different from policy of the campaign, and im sure there would be a situation where everyone has to draw red lines. Accountability is key.

12. NUS WOMEN’S CAMPAIGN

What do you think is wrong with NUS Women’s Campaign at present, and could be improved/changed? What do you think of our claim that at present the Campaign exists mainly on paper and has little campaigning presence in the real world? What do you think of the state of democracy and involvement in the campaign?

What would be your main campaigning priorities as NUS Women’s Officer?

I think the NUS Women’s Campaign should fulfil at least two roles. To provide the national leadership on campaigning setting the agenda for women officers and activists around the country, and to provide the support and training to empower women’s officers to take ownership of the campaign locally and win for women students on their campus.

This year, beyond sister activist days and I Will Lead the way sessions, the campaign hasn’t fulfilled either of those in a satisfactory way. I agree with the claim about little campaigning presence this year, as although women’s officers and activists around the country have been doing great work, the NUS led work they are doing tends to be Zero Tolerance, which was the campaign Olivia Bailey, Estelle’s predecessor launched or other initiatives of their own, as opposed to an NUS Women’s campaign led Anti Cuts campaign which is what women voted for in the priority campaign, as the campaign still hasn’t led on anything anti cuts related, despite the priority campaign being decided in July, to get to March with no activity is unacceptable.

Im really proud that the campaign changed the delegate entitlement to 4 places with specific reserved places for black, disabled, caring responsibilities and LGBT women as we cant be a campaign relevant to all women if we don’t have women from different backgrounds, who self define into different liberations groups setting the agenda for our campaign and making sure that our campaigning activity is audited by the committee reps, as well as formed by them.

I think that women don’t feel it is their national campaign because we aren’t providing that leadership at the moment in terms of clear campaigning strategy or the means to build local and regional networks. I Will and Sister activist training is invaluable to the women who are able to attend, however, the problem is that there is a very low turnout from women in colleges and unions who have less money available to them. That is why I am proposing we introduce regional women student forums, to bring women in local and regional areas together to have regular forums where they can support each other, build community and also pool together resources where a student union does not have or is not willing to put funds towards the women’s campaign. This is especially important in terms of women in colleges. Richer unions have a responsibility to work with the less rich unions in their areas. Also by starting to embed train the trainer into the NUS Women’s Campaign training days we enable students to go back to their forums to confidently deliver the skills, training and confidence building to other women, so that we are all more effective campaigners.

The majority of NUS Women’s Committee are supporting me for election, due to a lack of inclusiveness and sense of ownership of the campaign. My priorities are winning the fights against the cuts which take away the resources for women students to study and access their right to education, including delivering the fight for student carers across the UK as we have in Scotland. We can never as a movement, stop working towards increasing women’s representation, fighting for more women’s officers, defending women’s right to choose and fighting against violence against women.

Let’s take our movement back!

***
These questions aim to relate to issues that are important to women and activists in the NCAFC and add to information in Kelley’s manifesto. To read Kelley’s manifesto and learn more about her campaign take a look at her Facebook and election website . We’ll post Kelley’s answers to the questions here as soon as we have them.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “NUS Women’s Officer elections: Kelley Temple speaks to NCAFC Women about cuts, free education and the left in NUS

  1. I’m a woman student in Scotland and a feminist (and left) activist. While I’ve had a few disagreements with Kelley I think she’d be great in this role and hope NCAFC Women’s Committee support her.

    Kate Harris
    Edinburgh Uni

  2. Pingback: Support Kelley Temple for NUS Women’s Officer – Build a serious left in NUS Women’s Campaign as part of a fighting student women’s movement | ncafcwomen

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s