SU denies support for ‘Free Education’ demonstration despite majority vote

So that’s how democracy works…

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UEA’s Student Union will not be encouraging the ‘Free Education’ demonstration in London next week, despite overwhelming votes of support in the last Union Council meeting.

Liam McCafferty, the Union’s Postgraduate officer, tweeted last night that he was “disappointed” that the union will not take part in the demonstration, for what will be: “the first time in six years”.

UEA’s Postgraduate officer isn’t happy

The demonstration is being held on Wednesday November 17, and begins in Marlet Street at 12 noon.

The march will then progress through Russell Square, down Kingsway to the Strand, through to Trafalgar Square, before ending at Parliament at 4pm.

Everyone loves democracy right?

It is likely to be the last student protest before the general election in May 2015.

Just three days ago, the NUS pulled its support for the scheme, despite formally endorsing it in September.

Toni Pearce, the NUS president, said of the decision to withdraw support that there were “significant concerns regarding an unacceptable level of risk that this demonstration currently poses to our members”.

Organised by a coalition of student groups, including the Student Assembly Against Austerity, the demonstration would have been the first to have been supported by the NUS since 2012.

Liam revealed that: “Seven Student Officers voted in favour of removing support for the demo, with six officers voting against.

Students who wish to attend the demonstration however will have to make their own way there, with the transport currently booked by the union due to the cancelled (sic).”


Twitter hates the NUS

Despite this, 4,000 people have clicked ‘attending’ on the demonstration’s official Facebook event page.

Holly Staynor, UEA’S Welfare Community and Diversity Officer commented:

“The Union’s Student Officer Committee is responsible for the representation and campaigning work of the union, the implementation and interpretation of Union Policy, and coordinating action requested by Union Council.

“At the last Union Council resolutions were passed on ensuring the accessibility of campaigning, and providing transport for the Demo.

“This week NUS withdrew its support for the Demo, arguing that the plans in place did not give NUS confidence that the demonstration will be accessible to all students – in particular disabled students; that the concerns of the NUS Liberation officers about accessibility, safe space and the ability for Liberation groups to be involved had not been met; and that there were inadequate measures in place to mitigate against significant risks, believing there was not sufficient time for these risks to be mitigated.”


Free Education official Facebook event

She continued: “At our meeting on Thursday night the Student Officer Committee discussed the situation for over an hour, debating carefully the statement from NUS and seeking to reach an interpretation of the policies on accessible campaigning and support for the demo.

“Following careful discussion we resolved that the concerns over risk and access highlighted by NUS made it not possible to enact the wishes of Union Council on this occasion in relation to running coaches to the demo.

“This was not a decision we reached lightly, but ultimately the safety of our students and the ability of all of our students to take part has to come first.

“We will now be working positively to identify alternative, accessible and safe ways for students to take part in political protest and action in relation to education funding.”