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11th March 2013

General Secretary: Colin Cortbus

Colin Cortbus tells us why we should vote for him for General Secretary

Why am I running for General Secretary? And why should you care about who becomes General Secretary of the Union?

Because of it might mean a new perspective on banning Coca-Cola in SU bar, opposing sale of The Sun Newspaper in the SU shop or becoming part of the anti-Semitic influenced campaign of boycotting Israeli institutions and products? Most definitely not. If being Gen. Sec. involved squabbling all day, every day, about the ethical pitfalls and ecological impacts of stopping to sell Coca-Cola in the SU bar then I would not be running.

I think that as Union, we can and ought to do much better than that. Rather than wasting our time and resources squabbling grand national and international affairs with virtually no relevance to our core function (ie. Representing students) it is time we get to back to basics, forget expensive petty squabbling and diversions, white elephant projects and lobbyism in London and fight battles we can actually win. We should be at heart of student life, not at the fringes of British politics.

Via the Estates Master plan and Vision 2020 the University wants to spend £1 billion closing/selling off the North Campus and the relocation of all facilities to Oxford Road Corridor. It is an issue that genuinely matters to both current and future students. It would mean spending £1 billion on what might be seen as a vanity project, irreplaceably losing some the Universities’ most iconic and historic city-Centre facilities and potentially destroying our unique identity as a University created out of the UMIST and Victoria University merger.

I will oppose this Estates Master Plan in its entirety. Just think of what could be done with £1 billion – a much better Staff-Student Ratio, better Library Resources and massively improved existing facilities. You name it. And perhaps rather than forgetting the North Campus we ought to focus on how improve the social scene there, perhaps by hiring out some of the over 25,000 square metres of vacant space (source: Estates Strategy 2010-2020) there to bar, cafe and club companies.

Downing Street Thatcherites and LIEberals may be quite happy to ignore us, as there is no tradition of large numbers of students voting Tory anyway. Others can’t. I vow to fight each and every halls of residence rent increase and demand better accommodation. And I don’t mean just sitting around talking. I will explore avenues of active, local, legal and effective Resistance against these attacks on the student’s living standards. In the 1980s this Union organised a Rent Strike, putting real pressure on the university. No Surrender to fees, rent increases and cuts.

And it’s high time to spend money on students not executives. How many members of the executive team have you personally met? Do we real need eight of them at a cost of £16,600 p.a. each? Reducing the Number of Sabbatical Executive Positions from 8 to 4 would generate an annual saving of over £65,000. The new positions would be built around what actually matters to Students; A President, a Housing Officer, an Academic Officer, and a Union Facilities,Societies&Events Officer. Rather than being side-lined, student welfare, the rights and inclusion of women, and equality opportunities would be at the centre of the role of each executive team member. Part of £65,000 saving would be used to create a 16-member non-sabbatical elected Equality Opportunities board, where each member is paid £1,000 for his work (as opposed one currently being paid £16,600). Manchester’s student population is simply too diverse to be represented by one ‘Diversity’ Officer. Another part of the saving would be spent on campaigning for a public and independent enquiry as to why according to the UoM 2012 E. O consultation “75% of white students obtained a ‘good degree’…compared to 55% of BME students”. This is unacceptable.

More even would be saved by stopping to pay £50,000 for NUS membership each year. Think that’s a fair price for having a ‘national voice’? Think again. The NUS, riven with infighting, squabbling and Labour students’ careerism has a track record of childish politicking and failing students on real issues. In 2010/2011, there was real momentum; students had decided to fight the Tories reactionary and classist education cuts and fees and stood at the coalface of resistance against them. So what did our National Voice do? Develop dynamic leadership and sustain the protests? You wish. Far rather, NUS leader Aaron Porter urged government ministers in confidential emails that £800 million should be “deducted from the grants pot”, something that would effectively have made education unaffordable for the poorest. Other NUS suggestions included £2.4 billion cut to University Teaching Budgets and higher interest rates on student loans. (If you don’t believe me – see the Telegraph’s article on the National Union of Students secretly urged Government to make deep cuts in student grants). Why pay £50,000 each year for being stabbed in the back where it hurts most when you could just vote Lib Dem and get the (dis)service for free?

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