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LEFTWINGERS condemned a “total lack of transparency” in the National Union of Students (NUS) today, as the organisation’s annual conference came to a close.
The three-day gathering saw the re-election of a number of candidates backed by the organised right wing of the NUS, including incumbent president Shakira Martin.
We are currently occupying the stage at conference, we will not be silenced, our national union needs to hear us and represent us! Pregnant people in Ireland deserve the right to bodily autonomy and we will not stop till we are heard ✊ #NUSNC18 #NUSConference pic.twitter.com/PAUn9RAaop
— Project Choice QUBSU (@QUProjectChoice) March 28, 2018
The only leftwinger to win a key position was vice-president for union development Ali Milani, another re-elected incumbent.
Tensions between the union’s factions peaked yesterday afternoon, when scores of activists occupied the stage at the SEC Armadillo conference centre in Glasgow.
The activists were protesting at the refusal of conference organisers to allow extra time to debate motions.
Among the motions dropped from the agenda were calls for abortion rights in Northern Ireland — where the pregnancy terminations remain illegal — and the decriminalisation of sex work.
Supporters of the occupation said it indicated a wider discontent with the culture of the organisation.
Hope Worsdale, a student activist at the University of Warwick, said: “As well as showing crucial solidarity with sex workers and women in Northern Ireland, the stage occupation clearly demonstrated widespread dissatisfaction with how NUS is run.”
She said students were “fed up” with NUS chiefs making decisions “behind closed doors, with a total lack of transparency,” and described the leaders as “irrelevant and unaccountable.”
Following the occupation, the conference was temporarily suspended, with officials reportedly citing health and safety concerns.
Ms Martin, who was once associated with the student left, was supported by rightwingers when she ousted Malia Bouattia as NUS president last year.
Since then, she has led the union through a turbulent period, including allegations of bullying at NUS headquarters that she denied.
The NUS has expressed support for the recent lecturers’ strikes over pensions, but leftwingers say the organisation has failed to offer meaningful solidarity.
Ms Worsdale added: “The left must unite to reclaim NUS and transform it into a radical, democratic, grassroots organisation.
“The student movement is advancing beneath NUS’s feet. National conference is currently totally disconnected from what’s going on at a campus level and this must change.”
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