Last week, at the height of SU electioneering, a meeting took place in a cramped meeting room on Malet St – and this time it yielded significant results. The gruelling two and a half hour meeting was for the executive of NUS London, the devolved area of the National Union of Students.
The NUS London Area Council had been floundering for some months following tensions on the council, divided along racial lines. Then, as certain members of the NUS Black Students’ campaign progressed onto national conferences and discussions, the area group was left rudderless. It was not until last month that the organisation had fresh life breathed into it by resident activist, Alex Owolade. Alex was the long-running Black Students’ Officer at Birkbeck and continues to be active in the campaigns. He also heads up his own organisation, Movement for Justice, which recently spearheaded a campaign against the Harmondsworth detention centre.
While campaigning for an end to racist deportation, Owolade has been mending the NUS London body since early this year. It is widely believed that NUS London was “set up to fail” by NUS National, according to a member of the Democratic Procedures Committee. Its foundation came as a response to the dissolution of ULU last academic year. Since then, only three meetings of council have taken place – the latest of which was the result of Birkbeck’s own efforts, hosted by us on the 21st February. Owolade and a handful of other Birkbeckers have been busy reaching out to further education colleges across London, preparing for a fully-engaged NUS London to mobilise FE colleges to be part of the national student movement.
Following on from the Council, the executive laid groundwork for a visit to the constituency of Liam Byrne, shadow higher education minister. Coaches funded by several key London student unions will be going up to Birmingham on the 28th of March, demanding a stronger Labour commitment to free education.
At the end of the meeting, attendees cast votes to decide upon the new London area convenor. Following a discussion on the validity of job-shares, Alex Owolade and Hannah Sketchly, outgoing UCLU democracy and communications sabbatical officer, were appointed to the task. “Modest” objectives will follow an expected resurgence of student action in London. Birkbeck will continue to reach out to FE colleges in every quarter of town to get their voices heard.
More to follow.