NUS National Day of Action: Campus and city protests27 February 2013
As part of the National Union of Students’ National Day of Action, students across Melbourne will protest at the State Library in the CBD as well as on campus.
The Day of Action will this year focus on fee deregulation in universities and fee increases.
The protest is part of UMSU’s membership of the NUS, which costs them about $100,000 a year—a couple of dollars from each student’s SSAF contribution.
UMSU President, Kara Hadgraft, admits some people don’t know much about the organisation but it has still brought them “clear wins”. The NUS has kept a close eye on universities during the roll out of the SSAF.
“Without the lobbying from NUS, unis would be keeping money and not putting it into student bodies,” Ms Hadgraft says. Another recent campaign is the ‘Talk About It’ survey of women’s safety on campus, which has led to discussions about improving lighting and security.
The biggest event on the NUS calendar is its annual national conference. In December last year, delegates elected office-bearers and set policy priorities for 2013.
There was drama, when Socialist Alternative delegates staged a walkout to force discussion on left policies. Sarah Garnham, writing on their website, accused the NUS leadership of acting as a Labor “cheer squad”. She called the conference a “farcical festival of bureaucracy”.
Similar criticisms come from Melbourne University Liberal Club president, Michael Sabljak. “The NUS generally serves as a playground for Young Labor to get points on their résumé,” Mr Sabljak says. “We end up spending so much time discussing issues which aren’t important.” He says the average student can’t see what value they get for funding the NUS, a “marginalised body” which has little power to enact its political agenda. He argues it should focus on advocacy and student services.
NUS President Jade Tyrell says arguments during the national conference are quickly forgotten. “I don’t think the political machinations that went on in 2012 should affect our campaigns,” she said. “We need to make sure we’re banding together.” With a looming federal election, the NUS wants to hold political parties to account. The NUS will run campaigns from O-Week through to a National Day of Action on March 27.
Kara Hadgraft says UMSU will be encouraging students to enrol and keeping them informed on party policies. “The number one priority is getting students involved,” Ms Hadgraft says.
The NUS hopes to extract promises on issues like fee contributions, Youth Allowance and course funding. “This is a critical year for students,” Ms Tyrell says.