THE NATIONAL Union of Students (NUS) held an extraordinary conference in Leeds last week to discuss reform of its democratic structures. It was attended by just over 300 delegates-a large proportion of whom were full time sabbatical officers. The conference was called against the backdrop of a severe financial crisis. The NUS has an annual budget deficit of £500,000.
Rather than being about any genuine constructive attempt at reform, the leadership sought to save money by implementing severe and disproportionate cuts. A financial crisis was used to implement a longstanding right wing agenda to whittle away democracy.
Newly elected president Kat Fletcher proposed the executive's motion to cut delegate entitlements to national conference by almost a third, reduce funding for liberation campaign representatives, and cut conference a day shorter.
This will make it harder for minority students to gain representation and for all students to hold the NUS leadership to account and to determine union policy.
At no point was the conference given an estimate of how much money the changes would save. Union leaders prevented any discussion on the role of the NUS's directorate (unelected management committee) in failing to offset the current crisis.
The proposed cuts to democracy require ratification at a second conference set for the autumn. Activists must ensure a large mobilisation for this conference if we are to stop the right wing getting the cuts through.