Why conference makes me all gooey inside….

For those of you who don’t have the good fortune of following me on twitter or have me as a Facebook friend. You will have missed my continuous barrage of updates about NUS Scotland conference that just passed in Dundee this weekend ( #nusscot13).

NUS Scotland Conference is the sovereign political event for NUS Scotland, where all the decision-making, elections, policy formation and accountability happens. Students from across Scotland representing their College or University made their way to Dundee this weekend to among other things elect a new Scottish President.

So that is the brief background, I want to talk a little about conference and why I am so excited for what happens next. For the people who were actually at conference or involved in students unions (or even the odd hack or two that still likes to keep an eye on things). You will have seen many posts about wins and losses of delegates that stood for elections at NUS. Whats amazing about conference is it isn’t always about who wins (though that is vitally important). It is about people standing up and shaping the debate, bringing issues to the table, that will be remembered. In the election I ran we had a range of students all standing with different backgrounds, College president, university president a post-graduate student and a returning officer that’s just an engaged full-time student. That was reflected in all the elections throughout the weekend. What was truly wonderful was the fact so many first time delegates felt welcomed enough and where openly encouraged to stand in those elections and challenge people like me who were running . It speaks testament to the legendary friendly nature of conference, and better yet was reflected in the presidential campaign which was nothing short of fantastic on both sides.

For some people all of this will be a little lost on you, and for that I apologise, but if I tried to explain it all fully this blog post would be ten pages long, I am more interested in the impact and importance and highlighting the overall ‘what happened ‘ at conference, rather than individual candidate wins.

I can’t bang on about this enough but the most rewarding part of this weekend is talking to membership, to students, to extraordinary everyday students who go the extra mile to make things better, from fighting against fees to better support services for mental health on campus. They are the life blood of NUS and the student movement and will be the engaged and active citizens of the future. I am proud NUS gets to play a wee part in shaping these people and giving these officers and students a chance to feel empowered and excited going forward into another year that will be laden with highs and lows.

Anyone who knows me knows I am a campaigner at heart, I love to engage, because I am passionate I think when you show how much you care, whether that’s by talking or listening then you inspire people to feel important, that what they have to say, matters, that you want their opinion and engagement and theirs a chance to change something. So having two days to wander around conference meeting bright eyed, bushy-tailed and eager students and having a oppurtunity to engage with them is an opportunity I don’t take for granted. It is as simple as just saying ‘Hi, I’m Conor, I’m an elected representative, any questions any qualms, come chat to me, I’m here to be accountable to you and make your time at conference the best it can be’. Or even more simply ‘Hi Im Conor, who are you, tell me about yourself’ Whether it is your first or tenth conference that’s exactly the kind of welcoming faces we need, NUS + unions face the criticism far too often of being cliquey and exclusive, and while we get it right most of the time we need to challenge that view and work hard to make sure every student feels comfortable at our events. I met some genuinely fantastic officers who just wowed me with the work they do day in day out trying to transform lives and make a difference. People who have faced all kinds of adversity, the strength of individuals in the movement never cease to amaze me, and when we pull that all together its no wonder NUS and the students that get involved (and associations and volunteers on every campus) are known all over a sa force to be reckoned with that win time and time again. To Mike Russell’s Dissapointment.

Though I still think NUS Scotland leads on this and its shown by the sheer number of candidates choosing to get involved in elections, speeches, accountability and even campaigning for other candidates! (A side note, BIGGEST CONFERECNE EVER). *Jazz hands*

Conference is one of the most exhausting experiences imaginable, I am physically and emotionally spent, from a rollercoaster of emotions over election wins and losses. From the hours of preparation, motion writing, membership consultation and even the odd squabble behind the scenes between us nus officers trying to make conference the best it can be! Even though im literally exhausted, I feel so happy, so proud for a number of reasons.

Why I am chuffed.

1. The delegates of this conference passed a comprehensive list of fantastic policy that will really drive us forward in the coming year and have given the new SEC (Scottish Executive Committee) and full-time officers an incredible mandate going forward.

2. So many happy delegates Just the sheer positive attitude of delegates walking away feeling enthused, This is important because these officers and students will be going back on campus to talk about the exciting stuff NUS will be doing in the next year, but that doesn’t happen without their input and hard work. So we need them to be excited for it.

3. We passed some stellar policy this conference, I am proud to say we passed a motion in support for gender quotas on Boards of Managements and even prouder to say I voted in favour of this alongside an overwhelming majority of conference. Which will bring NUS Scotlands views in line with that of  the NUS Women’s campaign and rightly so. Alongside a real vision for education motion, a ‘tax the rich to fund education’, and a whole raft of policies on Community and social issues that look at student in their wider place in society not just education and funding.

4. Personally a thank you to all the officers and students who put up with my election chat, supported me, campiagned for me,  the feedback was fantastic, informative, and will hopefully mean that if you didnt know me before conference, you know what I stand for now, and you can feel comfortable in getting in touch on any issue. Being re-elected is massivly humbling especially agianst such fantastic candidates I was running against.

Things change pretty rapidly in the world of student politics, every year or two due to the nature of how long officers can run in institutions and NUS you tend to find old officers leaving and new ones coming in. Seeing such powerful officers leave us and move on is sad but gives me hope as they move on to go out into the ‘real world’ and fulfill even bigger roles out there fighting the good fight, staying a friend to the student movement and the work we do (see my bit about hacks that keep ears and eyes in the movement). Seeing the next generation of officers coming in is really powerful and exciting, especially to hear that so many of them have decided they want to run, based on the work of the officers that came before them. I hold a personal belief you should be  inspiring the people who take up your role after you finish to be even better than you.

Now personally I am rather sad, and cried more than a few tears that our very own Graeme Kirkpatrick (Vice President Education), Is moving on to better and bigger things, I shouldn’t have to explain why he has been awesome, he has put colleges at the heart of NUS, changed the way everyone views what officers from college backgrounds can achieve and has brought amazing vision, leadership and strategy to the newly formed ‘Team Education’ that will give his replacement a strong steer on how to go forward and develop it even more. Now that’s all the outward membership facing spiel I need to give. Personally Graeme has just been the dream, I consider him the closest thing to a mentor, He took me, a newly elected SEC member for education, that had no knowledge of education policy, quality and helped challenge me to come up with my own ideas around education, to think critically about the issues facing students and how to lead by example and be a good role model on SEC for the membership. Without him I wouldn’t have become that officer, less than one year on who could stand up in a room of a 150 people and argue for a comprehensive vision of education and explain why we need policy of college quality review, and the importance of student partnership agreements. I wouldn’t have changed into the education geek I am now if it wasn’t for the leadership of Graeme and my admiration for the hard work he has put in over the years. I will truly miss him and I am sad to be losing a mentor and friend that I genuinely look forward too working with on a daily basis. Earning his respect and winning re-election are two things I am personally very proud of gaining this weekend.

So conference has spoken, We have elected a NEW SEC, New full-time officers, passed our motions and set our priorities for the year. Most importantly we have engaged and hopefully enthused student officers and volunteers to go back and make wins on their campus, that will continue to engage with us (NUS Scotland) In the next year. It is all very exciting. I am proud to be involved but this wasn’t just a post about any particular election will, It was about what we achieved from this weekend, the lasting impact it can have, and how going forward we best use that to make real wins for students and change lives. Remember you can hold us to account on that if we don’t ;).

So this is one happy, exhausted delegate that feels very proud after a busy few days. I look forward to making changes on and off your campus.

P.s excuse any mistakes or lack of coherence. It’s been a long weekend, like most delegates conference isn’t for sleeping and the weekend can leave you feeling rather frazzled.

p.p.s To the new SEC and elected officers, amazing, well done, Can’t wait to be working with you. commiserations to all the awesome candidates that ran, don’t give up, don’t stop being involved, we need you, you helped shape the debate!!!!!

Conor Murray-Gauld

NUS Scotland Education Campaign Convenor

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~ by conorstrife on March 18, 2013.

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