‘Atmosphere of intimidation’ at NUS conference

Delegates complain of ‘lack of tolerance’ and ‘time wasting’ in open letter to National Union of Students

May 28, 2015
Man with tape covering mouth

A number of delegates who attended the annual conference of the National Union of Students have complained of an “atmosphere of intimidation” at the event.

An open letter signed by 43 attendees of last month’s conference claims that many students “felt too scared to speak on stage out of fear of the response they would get”.

There was an “atmosphere of intimidation, fear and inaccessibility that perpetuated during the entirety of conference”, the letter says.

“There seemed to be a general lack of tolerance for opinions which aren’t the mainstream view,” the letter adds. “We frequently saw the same faces speaking on stage, time after time, creating an atmosphere that this was a conference for the few, not the many.”

The letter also complains about time being wasted during conference sessions, with the result that many key policy motions were not debated but instead were sent on to the national executive council for deliberation.

A particular concern raised is the use of the chair’s visual assessment of the audience to count votes, which the letter says was often open to challenge and sometimes resulted in time-consuming manual counts being carried out.

More accurate methods such as electronic voting need to be adopted “as a matter of urgency” to save time and to eliminate “accusations of bias”, the letter says.

The letter, signed by 16 students’ union presidents, concludes: “This year’s event made a mockery of the student movement and served to weaken and divide it, rather than bringing us together.”

Toni Pearce, the outgoing NUS president, told Times Higher Education that she was “disappointed” to hear that some delegates had not felt that the conference had lived up to the union’s values, and said she was “grateful” to delegates for raising their concerns.

“We have always encouraged delegates to feed back on our events and share their experiences so that we can make changes based on evidence to improve the experience of delegates at our events, and this year’s national conference will be evaluated in detail,” Ms Pearce said.

chris.havergal@tesglobal.com

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

POSTSCRIPT:

Article originally published as: ‘Too scared to speak’ at NUS conference (28 May 2015)

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

United Nations peace keeper

Understanding the unwritten rules of graduate study is vital if you want to get the most from your PhD supervision, say Kevin O'Gorman and Robert MacIntosh

David Parkins Christmas illustration (22 December 2016)

A Dickensian tale, set in today’s university

Eleanor Shakespeare illustration (5 January 2017)

Fixing problems in the academic job market by reducing the number of PhDs would homogenise the sector, argues Tom Cutterham

poi, circus

Kate Riegle van West had to battle to bring her circus life and her academic life together

man with frozen beard, Lake Louise, Canada

Australia also makes gains in list of most attractive English-speaking nations as US slips