Sean Rillo Rackza, Chair of Council for Birkbeck Student’s Union, called today for the immediate resignation of NUS President Aaron Porter.
Speaking on Sky News, Rillo Rackza argued that "Aaron Porter has not been leading the student movement. We have seen people on the streets day after day protesting, but he has done nothing."
Rillo Rackza’s appearance comes after the School of Oriental and African Studies Student’s Union voted almost unanimously to support a motion of no confidence against Porter. The motion declared Porter ‘incapable of leading the student movement’ and resolved to call for an Extraordinary Conference of the NUS to take the no confidence ballot, and is one of the twenty-five needed across unions to trigger this conference.
The decision to press for a no confidence vote has not come lightly to those in the student movement - but now more than ever it is a necessary tactic.
Students are in a period of huge political upheaval; commentators across the country are shocked by the vocal resistance of the so-called apathetic generation. We are taking to the streets and showing the world our anger in a way that would have been unthinkable six months ago; Greek and French students are now even demonstrating in solidarity with the British student protests!
It has been a turbulent few months for the explosive student movement, and it is important to recognise that the NUS were instrumental in calling the first demonstration, on the 10th of November, which saw at least 52,000 people take to the streets in the biggest student protest since the Thatcher era. He and the NUS should be commended for that achievement.
It’s equally important however, to be clear that the situation has changed massively in two short months. Firstly, we saw Porter immediately condemning the smashed windows at Millbank Tower and dismissing the actions as those of a ‘minority of idiots’. We then watched him promise legal, financial and political support to students in occupation and immediately renege on it. We heard him commit to calling a national demonstration on the day of the tuition fee vote. Some of us were unlucky enough to witness the spectacle of 200 students and NUS full-timers waving glowsticks on Victoria Embankment whilst 35,000 students made their voices heard in Parliament Square. When it comes to political leadership, Aaron Porter has been consistently placing himself and by extension the NUS firmly in the ‘irrelevant’ camp.
It’s an old political slogan, but one which retains its relevance today; we work with our union leaders when they’re with us, and against them when they’re against us. The last few days have seen Porter calling for violent students to be excluded. They’ve seen protestors at the NUS rally informed that they should ‘go home immediately, and not join the demonstration at Parliament’. They’ve seen, crucially, an excruciatingly embarrassing expose; that Porter secretly urged the Government to make deep cuts in student grants and implement a market rate of interest on loans, whilst promising the student movement he was committed to fighting against cuts and fees. It is clear that Porter stands against everything the student movement is fighting for.
It takes twenty-five unions passing a vote of no confidence in an NUS President to trigger an Extraordinary Conference. It is imperative that Unions up and down the country do so immediately; at this crucial point in the student movement, we need a leadership that will fight and we must demand one that will win.
Motion of No Confidence in Aaron Porter:
1 This Union Notes:
1.1 That on the 9/12/10 over 30,000 students marched from the University of London Union (ULU) to Parliament in a protest against fees and cuts on the day of the vote the raise tuition fees.
1.2 That the National Union of Students organised a candlelight vigil and rally in Victoria Embankment with under 1,000 attending.
1.3 That the NUS NEC, in a proposal made by NUS President Aaron Porter, voted NOT to back the march from ULU.
1.4 That Aaron Porter stated he was ‘not at all proud’ of the ULU protest.
1.5 That the co-ordinators of the NUS Rally at Victoria Embankment urged those in attendance to return home immediately afterwards and not to join the protest in Parliament Square.
1.6 That violent police tactics including kettling, horse charges and the use of batons were deployed by the Met, leaving over 43 protestors injured or hospitalised, including one life threatening injury.
1.7 That the NUS has not put out an official statement condemning the police violence towards students on the 9th of December, standing up for their right to protest and not be illegally kettled or charged by horses.
1.8 That Aaron Porter recently visited the UCL Occupation where he stated that the NUS would provide support for those in occupation, as well as calling a National Demonstration on the day of the fees vote.
1.9 That at the UCL Occupation meeting Aaron Porter admitted that the NUS had been ‘spineless’ and ‘dithering’ in response the student occupations.
1.10 That Aaron Porter has reneged on both promises mentioned above (1.8).
2 The Union Further Notes:
2.1 That emails leaked to the Daily Telegraph show that the NUS had put models of alternative cuts to Ministers, outlining where cuts could be made to the Higher Education budget without raising tuition fees. These plans included cutting grants to the poorest students, and immediately charging a higher commercial rate on interest on student loans.
2.2 That the NUS response to this leak is to admit that they had ‘met with ministers and officials to discuss and model various potential impacts of cuts to Higher Education’
3 This Union Belives:
3.1 That the National Union of Students should not be in the business of modelling cuts for the ConDem Government or discussing possible ways of cutting grants from the poorest of student.
3.2 That the NUS National President should keep his promises.
3.3 That the NUS should organise another National Demo, and officially supporting and coordinating other demonstrations and protest.
3.4 That the NUS should give practical support to occupations and students affected by police violence.
3.5 That Aaron Porter, given his failure to assist students & occupation, and to coordinate or support further National Demonstrations against the cuts, and because of his helpful emails to the government, is incapable of leading the student movement.
4 This Union Resolves:
4.1 That we have no confidence in Aaron Porter as NUS President.
4.2 To call for an Extraordinary Conference to hear this vote of no confidence.
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