York student Maddy Kirkman has been elected as the new NUS Disabled Students’ Officer after winning two thirds of the votes at this year’s elections.
Speaking of her victory, she said: “I am incredibly excited to be taking over the role. It is an honour and a privilege to be trusted to lead this movement at a time when we are facing bigger and more varied challenges than ever before.”
Kirkman will officially take up the paid full-time position on 1 July. During the next academic year, she will be responsible for the national disabled students’ campaign.
She aims to increase the “scarily low” representation of disabled people in the NUS and help the confederation develop a “strategy [to] influence the outcome” of next year’s General Election. This will include providing more information for disabled students about candidates and their policies. As an anti-cuts activist, Kirkman has also pledged to “fight” the Government’s austerity measures which many complain have adversely affected disabled people and younger generations.
Nominations for Disabled Students’ Officer opened on 18 November last year, although nominations for the other committee positions did not open until 4 March. To be eligible to stand for election, candidates had to either be a disabled student studying at an affiliated union of the NUS (also known as an constituent member) or a full time officer. They were also required to receive at least five nominations before midday on 5 February from a minimum of five constituent members.
The new committee was announced on 6 March during the 2014 NUS Disabled Students’ Conference, which took place at the Park Inn Hotel in Manchester. Over eighty people attended the conference, sixty of whom were voting delegates. Each student union in the country is only allowed to send one voting delegate, but observers, who can speak but not vote, may also attend.
Kirkman described the event as a “really exciting place to be this year”. She went on to say: “It’s so invigorating to see our disabled activists come together with new ideas and so much positive energy.”
Other successful candidates included James Elliott, who was elected NEC Representative, and Felicity McKee and Kathy Vogt, who were voted Women’s Representatives. The role of Black Students’ Representative went to Kevin Wilson, whilst Rahul Singh was elected International Students’ Representative. Aisling Gallagher and Toby Morrison both gained Open Committee roles and the 2014/2015 Steering Committee positions were filled Susan Cook and Stephen Marshall. Matthew Reuben and Amy Smith will be next year’s LGBT Students’ Representative and Further Education Representative respectively.