After a motion to support a national Free Education demonstration passed at Student Assembly last month, the Union's Board of Trustees, through an 'endorsed decision' with the Union's Cabinet, have 'overturned' the decision.
Update: In a statement on brunelstudents.com the Union said the following:
In light of the position and advice of NUS following their comprehensive risk assessment the Union Cabinet met on Monday and have taken the decision not to attend the demonstration themselves and to advise against Brunel Students doing so.
The Union Leadership is still committed to support the provision of free, accessible, quality education at every level with no fees, no cuts and no debts however for safety and accessibility reasons that support cannot be demonstrated by attending this event.
Our strong advice to students at Brunel is not to attend, however we understand that everyone has individual choice and the right to protest and may still wish to do so, therefore we will make space available on Friday 14th November at 11am to 1pm in the Academy and Tuesday 18th November 11am to 1pm in the Union Meeting Room for them to gather and discuss their options and plan their actions. Union Vice President Leon Evans will be present if anyone has questions on the Union position and to provide as much information as we have on the demonstration and on safety.
The news comes after the National Union of Students revoked their support for the demonstration in light of identifying an “unacceptable level of risk” after commissioning a risk assessment of the demonstration. The NUS also cites lack of accessibility for disabled students and liberation groups as another reason for revoking support.
The Board of Trustees endorsed Cabinet to make the decision on behalf of the Board.
The Union's Cabinet is made up of senior Union staff members and the four elected sabbatical officers.
UBS President Martin Zaranyika commented:
"Given the health and safety risks outlined by the NUS we will not be supporting the demo. However we do support the principle of free education and may support similar demos in the future if we are satisfied that the health and safety requirements of demonstrators are suitably met."
George Bowden proposed the motion to support the march for Free Education. Reacting to the Union's decision, he said:
“Despite all of this, Brunel students are still attending next week’s free education march! We’re thankful to our wonderful student union media for highlighting our motion, its trials and tribulations, and the Facebook event for the march which you can join here.”
After passing a motion at Student Assembly last week to support a national demonstration for free education, the Union of Brunel Students may now overturn the decision.
The news comes in light of a statement released by the National Union of Students revoking their support for the demonstration in light of identifying an “unacceptable level of risk” after commissioning a risk assessment of the demonstration. The NUS also cites lack of accessibility for disabled students and liberation groups as another reason for revoking support.
In an email to Student Assembly members earlier this morning, UBS President Martin Zaranyika said, “We have to make a decision on whether we are honouring the decision and mandate made at Student Assembly or whether we follow the NUS approach and pull out.”
Zaranyika continued, “Both have risks, the obvious ones for attending are spelt out in the press release, the not so obvious ones for not attending are along the lines of reputational and democratic damage for not following democratically made decisions.”
The motion to support the demonstration, which takes place on November 19 across the UK, was proposed by George Bowden (founder of the alternative student media site KingdomBrunel) and seconded by Ali Milani (Societies Guild Chair) at Student Assembly on Thursday 30 October. The motion states that “This Union believes that the provision of free, accessible and quality education can be realistically achieved by ending tax evasion and avoidance and cracking down on tax havens; imposing serious taxes on the incomes, inheritances and capital gains of the rich; [and] taking the banks, and their wealth under democratic control.” The motion goes on to mandate the President to “keep the Union’s membership informed about the demo, its aims and objectives and the logistics of the event [and] to use Union communication channels to relay information about the demonstration to students at Brunel.” The motion was passed by Assembly members with an indicative vote.
Cabinet members are meeting on Thursday 6 November “to discuss [their] position and make a recommendation to the trustees.”
George Bowden, who proposed the motion, told Le Nurb: "Clearly the NUS's professional risk assessment has raised some serious questions about the inclusivity and safety of the free education march on 19 November. I trust the UBS to try to find answers to these questions, and to make the right decision on whether to support the march."
Next term the Union’s membership will vote in a referendum whether they wish for UBS to continue to be affiliated with NUS.
This article was updated on 4 November at 12:56 to include a quote from George Bowden.