An open letter to the NUS has been signed by York delegates Chris Wall, Jemima Busby, Sam Maguire and Beth Curtis urging the NUS to tackle its method of policy debate and the “atmosphere of intimidation” at the most recent NUS conference.
The open letter criticised the lack of time to debate motions which they attributed to “the abuse of procedural motions by delegates to prevent open debate in order to filibuster, and the poor time management of the Conference”. It was argued that too much time was spent electing the Block of 15, Democratic Procedures Committee (DPC) and Student Trustees.
The letter also proposes an alternative method of vote counting instead of the current procedure of the chair visually assessing the audience, due to their belief that manual counting is a “disorganised” and “inaccurate” method of counting, they instead proposed electronic voting pads, believing that this would be more time efficient and eliminate accusations of bias.
The majority of the letter addressed the “atmosphere of intimidation, fear and inaccessibility” throughout the conference in which people were too afraid to speak and opinions which weren’t mainstream were not tolerated.
The letter stated: “We frequently saw the same faces speaking on stage, time after time, creating an atmosphere that this was a Conference for the few, not the many.
“The NUS elected officers consistently wore the t-shirts and openly supported certain delegates in elections, thus side-lining their opponents and intimidating other candidates running, or who may be considering running in future years. There needs to be much more effort paid to ensuring the inclusivity of all delegates to ensure everyone gets a fair chance to contribute, and ensuring that people aren’t intimidated against challenging the ‘popular’ view.”
The letter also addressed access issues for disabled studentss and the absence of applications for full-time NUS roles. The letter was written after many policies did not have time to be debated which meant they would be decided upon by the National Executive Council (NEC), with particular emphasis on the Governance Reform motion.
The letter was signed by 43 student officers post-conference.