Archive for Kent Union

This and that: A week in the life of…

I have been away from the blog for a week, doing this, doing that. Now I’m back and ready to be as scathing and scrutinising as ever before.

Kent Union elections

I was absent for most of last week because my attention was on the Kent Union elections, particularly the battle for VP Welfare.

I was backing the popular and dedicated Aaron Kiely, who faced tough opposition from the incumbent VP Welfare, Samantha Kennedy. Unfortunately I was unable to be there through most of campaigns week because of my work commitments; however, I was able to do my bit on Friday for the final push.

After a long day in which the weather worsened, it hit 4pm and the polls had closed to the relief of everyone, especially Aaron. That night, we had a nervous wait in store until 11pm when the results were announced. It went to three rounds and Aaron was shy of just 200 votes. The final tally was 1400 to Sam Kennedy, 1200 to Aaron Kiely and 700 votes to the third placed candidate. Whilst the results were disappointing after a long, hard slog, all of us were immensely proud of Aaron’s effort and those of his campaigns team.

Congratulations should go to Zoe Scandrett, Damon Reid-Williams and Tom Pengelly, who were all elected to the positions of Women’s Officer, Ethnic Minorities Officer and LGBT Officer respectively. Kent students are lucky to have three excellent people leading the liberation campaigns for the year ahead.

Victory for Kent staff and students

However, despite the disappointment of Friday night, a silver lining emerged in the dispute between the University management and staff in the Biosciences department at the University of Kent. Yesterday, at 3pm, after a meeting between the University and the UCU, the following statement was released:

“The University and UCU have had further constructive discussions in relation to the future of the School of Biosciences and have agreed upon an acceptable resolution of the matters in issue between them. This successful conclusion to the discussions indicates a renewed spirit  of constructive partnership between management and UCU, and both parties are committed to entering into a Redundancy Avoidance Agreement for the future.   As a result, the threat of compulsory redundancies has now been lifted from UCU members in Biosciences, and UCU has therefore cancelled the planned ballot of its members on taking industrial action which was to commence on Friday 26th March 2010.”

You can read more about this tremendous victory for the UCU and for student-led activism from Aaron Kiely and the Kent staff themselves.

Nancy Platts blocks me from Twitter

In other news, it seems as though the Labour candidate for Brighton Pavilion, Nancy Platts, has blocked me from following her on Twitter.

I for one am shocked and saddened by this move. As a public figure, whose Twitter profile is their candidate profile, Nancy’s move is unprecedented and surprising. Sure, I have criticised Nancy and Labour policy, but never on a personal level. In fact, I have the utmost respect for perspective parliamentary candidates (PPCs). Running for Parliament is no easy thing; it requires time, effort and, perhaps above all, maintaining a cool head. If Nancy thinks my soft criticism of her policies is bad, she has no idea what it would be like if ever she was elected to Parliament. I would appreciate it if Nancy could specify as to why she has blocked me but, if I have caused her any upset, I do apologise.

Shame on David Lepper

In further Brighton Labour news, the BBC has reported that Pavilion MP, David Lepper, has broken Parliamentary rules on overseas trips. Mr. Lepper has been visiting Cyprus every year since 2004 and has tabled 29 early day motions (EDMs) relating to the country. Mr. Lepper failed to register an interest when he tabled a Parliamentary question on 13th January 2009, as well as four EDMs between 2006 and 2009.

Whilst David Lepper has apologised for not registering an interest, he has not apologised for using up valuable Parliamentary time in which he should have been focussing on the concerns of his Brighton constituents. He owes his constituents a massive apology for not working in their interests, but instead for the Municipality of Morphou, the Municipality of Famagusta and the Association of Cypriot Municipalities, who paid for his free holidays to Cyprus.

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No time for complacency

As many University of Kent students no doubt know, the university has moved forward with plans for compulsory redundancies amongst staff in the university’s Biosciences department. The University and Colleges Union (UCU) branch at the university voted to take action to stop the twelve members of staff losing their jobs and livelihoods.

 Biosciences course representatives were quick to establish a Facebook group to protest against the proposed redundancies in the department however, this group has since been taken over by the official Kent Union bureaucracy and much of the original fervour and angst has been diluted, turning the group into a talking shop and information site, rather than a group dedicated to taking robust, determined and forthright action against any job losses.

The group now looks complacent, only willing to discuss the situation, rather than lead with proposals to fight back against the university’s ill-advised and, frankly, crass decision, to force hard-working, committed members of staff, out of their jobs and onto the scrap heap.

Fortunately, a new group has been created to address the complacency of Kent Union official bureaucrats, ‘Student Activism against the Biosciences cuts’. The group will endeavour to put forward a plan of action against cuts and redundancies in any department at the University of Kent. It will look to other campuses, such as  the University of Sussex’s ‘Stop the Cuts- Defend Sussex’ campaign, which enjoys the healthy support of University of Sussex Student Union (USSU) officers, including Josh Jones, USSU’s  Education Officer, who has recently called on Sussex University management to take a 10% pay cut!

Students at the University of Kent need full-time officers like Josh Jones and the other USSU sabbs. Students need officers who will support and encourage grassroots, student-led activism, that won’t rule out any tools at the disposal of students to challenge unfair decisions from the university management. The student movement’s greatest strength is its sheer size in numbers, as well as the close proximity students have with one another, particularly on collegiate campuses such as Kent.

A vibrant and robust anti-cuts, anti-redundancies, pro-learning campaign is needed at the University of Kent. Students need officers who are familiar with grassroots campaigning, aware of the need to promote a culture of activism on campus and in the community, and ready to utilise the student body behind any action.

Mobilising students is no easy task; it takes time, effort and good organising skills to do so. However, what is needed, more than anything else, is engagement. It should not be a matter of students’ going to the union, but of the union going to students. There should be regular, weekly campaigns from union officers. Union officers need to be quick at recognising issues, and even quicker in responding to them.  

In short, students need activism, not complacency.

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Aaron Kiely for VP Welfare

This year I’m backing Aaron Kiely for the position of Vice-President (VP) Welfare in the Kent Union elections. You can view a copy of Aaron’s manifesto here.

Aaron already has the backing a number of societies including Amnesty International, People and Planet, Conservation Society, ISOC (Islamic Society), the Critical Lawyers Group and the LGBT Society, as well as four others.

Aaron also has the backing of Daf Adley, NUS LGBT (Open Place) officer and candidate for NUS VP Development. And, of course, Britain’s Got Talent winners, Diversity.

Check out Aaron’s video manifesto where he discusses housing and accommodation issues, the redundancies in the Biosciences department and greening the UKC campus.

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Britain’s Got Talent winners back Aaron Kiely for VP Welfare

My mate, and all round brilliant person, Aaron Kiely, has received the backing of Britain’s Got Talent winners, Diversity, in this year’s Kent Union elections.

Aaron is running for the position of Vice-President (VP) Welfare. He’s running on a clear, progressive platform addressing the student housing crisis, of improving safety and well-being on campus and in the community, as well as promoting liberation campaigns, combating discrimination and inequality, and fighting for a greener campus.

If students are looking for a seasoned campaigner with passion, enthusiasm and vigour, then Aaron is the guy for the job.

I recommend to all Kent Union students to give Aaron their vote in the upcoming elections and to make him your #1 for VP Welfare.

Check out the video from Perri and Ashley.


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