NCAFC Conference 2012: positive and accessible

The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts national conference took place in Birmingham on 8-9 December 2012. 150 activists came together from all over the country to co-ordinate local struggles and plan the future of NCAFC.

The general tone of the conference was constructive and determined: one of developing ideas, strategies and structures to allow the student movement to fight and win when it next surges. There was a huge array of discussion and debate – in informal and formal sessions, as well as self-organised spaces for Liberation groups, and a lot of socialising and fun. (If you have photos of the conference, please email them to againstfeesandcuts@gmail.com// )

In this report:

1.Structural Outcomes of the conference

2.What conference voted for

3. Workshops roundup

4. Liberation, Section and Regional caucuses roundup

5. Election Results

1.Structural outcomes of the conference

The conference was a major step forward for the campaign, and for the first time established a clear set of core principles and a constitution for NCAFC.  This means:

  • NCAFC has a charter of core principles
  • NCAFC is now a membership organisation with:  watch this space for info on how to become a member
  • When the student movement next has an upsurge, we can dissolve our existing structures into a directly democratic delegate model
  • Local anti-cuts and other societies can now affiliate to NCAFC
  • NCAFC is in the process of setting up a new Federation of students or student unions, to which unions or students can affiliate. This will be decided at a conference, which will occur within 6 months

2. What conference voted for

The full text of what was passed is below. In short, NCAFC decided to:

  • Work on creating broad, non-sectarian anticuts groups on every campus
  • Push forward with a central political campaign for free education funded by taxation of the rich, while also focussing on neglected issues which affect many students, including housing and the NHS
  • Make the call for the abolition of all debt a serious political priority
  • Build a network of school and FE students, on the basis of campaigning for living grants; building fighting college students’ unions; opposing privatisation & marketisation; opposing market-driven mergers and cuts in courses and lecturers; and resisting all fees in education
  • Run a campaign on students’ rights as workers
  • Link up with Medsin, BMA Students, Keep Our NHS Public and the NHS Unity Network to fight what the government is doing to healthcare
  • Campaign within the Labour Movement for a coalition of ‘Trade Unions for free education.’
  • Organise towards a united left intervention within NUS
  • Make links with student activists in Sri Lanka against violent attacks on them

3.Workshops roundup

The conference provided a lot of opportunities for useful informal discussion of a wide range of topics. These included:

  • The fight for Further Education
  • International students – for dignity, against deportations!,
  • What’s happening to our Unis? An overview of attacks on HE
  • Change the world – Organise at work!
  • The lessons of the Quebec students’ struggle
  • Defending abortion rights
  • Student union democracy – smashing “their” structures and building our own
  • Saving the NHS

4. Liberation, Section and Regional caucuses roundup

Disabled Caucus

Disabled students caucus ran a lot more smoothly than it ever has before. Usually our time is entirely consumed discussing access needs at the actual event but those were so well organised for, that following elections, (in which Matthew Reuben and Edmund Schlussel were elected uncontested) we began a discussion on bullying. We talked about the way it can destroy movements and officers, how to counteract it, and how to support each other. We also discussed how there is a culture of silence around disability and, especially, ‘invisible’ disability on the left, and how to tackle it. Looking to the future we want to get involved in the cross-liberation conference we hope to plan for early Spring, and we want to prepare, probably two, workshops for the next training event. We also intend to build links with groups such as DPAC with the goal of calling a national day of action against ATOS in the new year.

LGBTQ Caucus

There were about 30 delegates present but we believe work must be done to engage more LGBTQ activists, especially Black* and Trans* students. We discussed issues that affect LGBTQ students, for instance cuts in public sector services for LGBTQ people, access to health services and education due to money issues and coming out, and lack of visibility for LGBTQ students.

After elections, we talked about the idea of “community”, and how the many local LGBT societies have become depoliticised and prone to doing only inaccessible/stereotypical social events. We want to engage societies and clubs around universities and colleges in a radical political community, and in NCAFC. The caucus agreed that there was a job to do in terms of intervening in the NUS LGBT Campaign, which has radical potential.

It was also agreed to call and hold a Liberation Conference where all self identify Disabled, Black, Women, and LGBTQ people can attend to discuss issues and unify efforts to campaign for all of the groups and improve Intersectionality work. We will aim to combine this with Liberation Training sessions.

Black Power Caucus

Around 14 people attended the Black Power Caucus. This isn’t great but is an improvement on previous years. Much of the caucus’s time was taken up with a debate around elections and candidates within the caucus, but it was ultimately productive. After elections, the caucus discussed using different forms of communications – including social media – to organise, and setting up an e-list. The caucus also agreed to organise an event in the near future.

Women’s Caucus

The women’s caucus elected a new women’s committee of 9 people which aims to support the activity of women in the NCAFC locally and organise for national activity; facilitate communication and skills sharing between women activists; and promote broader involvement in NCAFC Women and the NCAFC.

We reflected on the experience of conference so far (meeting on the Saturday evening). We agreed that, despite the fact it was statistically male-dominated, it was the most positive and accessible conference we had experienced. To build upon this and improve future events we agreed to explore ensuring gender neutral toilets, childcare provision and working together to propose motions and support each other to prepare speeches and participate more actively in motions debates. We also agreed to approach the other liberation caucuses to consider how we could improve diversity within the women’s caucus.

Reviewing the Charter for Women in Education (passed at last NCAFC conference) we discussed a few areas on which we would like to focus activity in the coming period. In particular, defending and extending abortion rights; fighting against attacks on the NHS; and defending or fighting to reinstate childcare support services on campuses, stood out. We also discussed how we might relate to support networks for women who experienced violence or abuse, and considered researching the experiences of women in education around this issue.

Scotland Caucus

The group discussed how best to organise the Scottish section of NCAFC. A consensus was reached to establish a relationship similar to that of NUS UK and NUS Scotland. A working group was established to organise a conference in February to constitute NCAFC Scotland as a federation of affiliated unions, groups and individuals. It was agreed the conference would meet in Aberdeen, and the group would approach as many sympathetic groups as possible.

The working group consists of NC members from Scottish institutions, namely Megan Dunn, Mike Shaw, James McAsh, Gordon Maloney, Lucy Eskell, Hona Luisa Cohen-Fuentes and Nathan Bower-Bir. Elections were held for the NCAFC Scotland representatives on national committee, with Megan Dunn (University of Aberdeen) and Mike Shaw (University of Edinburgh) elected.

The group also briefly discussed recent changes in education policy in Scotland and the need to organise around housing issues.

Welsh Caucus

The Welsh caucus was bigger than in previous years.  Elections were held for the Campaign Against Fees & Cuts Cymru Committee and is now Edmund (Cardiff), Andrew (Aberystwyth), and Jamie O’Brien (Aberystwyth).

A new announcement on HE policy in Wales is due after Christmas, and we’ll be looking at how we can develop anti-cuts groups in Wales and to engage these groups in CAFCC/NCAFC.

International Caucus

NCAFC’s International Caucus is politically very active and has played a large role in campaigns around London Met and within the NUS International Section. The caucus elected three reps and talked about the year ahead. A fuller report will be posted when it becomes available.

Jewish Left Caucus

A caucus of self-defining Jewish NCAFC supporters caucused towards the end of the conference, to talk about issues such as jewish political identity and anti-Semitism. Discussion focussed on a number of issues, including the recent release of anti-Semitic cartoons by the ISG in Scotland. The caucus decided not to ask for representation on the NC, but will be an active informal caucus within the campaign. If you want to be involved, email gordonmaloney@gmail.com

5. Election Results: a total of 38 elections took place

National Committee ‘Block of 14′ members (14 elected, 40% reserved for women):

  • Beth Redmond, Liverpool John Moores
  • Luke Durigan, UCL
  • Roshni Joshi, South DownsCollege
  • James McAsh, EdinburghUniversity
  • Michael Chessum, UCL and ULU
  • Gordon Maloney, AberdeenUniversity
  • Claire Lister, BirminghamUniversity
  • Daniel Lemberger Cooper, Royal Holloway and ULU
  • Rosie Huzzard, SheffieldCollege
  • Naomi Beecroft, EdinburghUniversity
  • Edward Maltby, London
  • Hannah Webb, UCL
  • Simon Furse, BirminghamUniversity
  • Matt Stanley, Mid KentCollege

Scotland Region (sharing 1 vote on the NC):

  • Mike Shaw, EdinburghUniversity (Open Place)
  • Megan Dunn, AberdeenUniversity (Women’s Place)

Wales Region (sharing 1 vote on the NC):

  • Andrew Tindall, AberystwythUniversity
  • Edmund Schluessel, CardiffUniversity
  • Jamie O’Brien, AberystwythUniversity

London Region (sharing 1 vote on the NC):

  • Alex Peters-Day, LondonSchool of Economics
  • Thais Yáñez, BirkbeckCollege

Women’s Campaign (sharing 1 vote on the NC):

  • Esther Townsend, University of East London
  • Thais Yanez, Birkbeck
  • Beth Redmond, Liverpool John Moores
  • Alice Marshall, HullUniversity
  • Ella Thorp, NewcastleUniversity
  • Hanna Moy, AberdeenUniversity
  • Naomi Beecroft, EdinburghUniversity
  • Alannah Mary Jane Ainslie, AberdeenUniversity
  • Hona Luisa Cohen-Fuentes, EdinburghUniversity

Disabled Campaign (sharing 1 vote on the NC):

  • Edmund Schluessel, CardiffUniversity
  • Matthew Chadkirk, Royal Holloway and Cordoba

Black Power Campaign (sharing 1 vote on the NC):

  • Ravi Maitreya Normandale, SOAS (Open Place)
  • Roshni Joshi, South DownsCollege (Women’s Place)

LGBTQ Campaign (sharing 1 vote on the NC):

  • Jack Saffery-Rowe, Royal Holloway (Open Place)
  • Sarah Watson, AberdeenUniversity (Women’s Place)
  • Thais Yanez, Birkbeck  (Trans Place)

International Section (sharing 1 vote on the NC):

  • Arianna Tassinari, Oxford
  • Nathan Bower-Bir, EdinburghUniversity
  • Aadam Muuse, Bradford

For all the motions passed in full see the main NCAFC report here.

Advertisements

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