By Donal Blaney, Chief Executive of the Young Britons’ Foundation.
42 years after the student riots of 1968, when NUS President Jack Straw was but a lad, student rioters are back.
The criminal damage wrought in Westminster today highlights the way in which colleges, universities and students’ unions have become hot-beds of extremism – be it Islamist groups actively preaching hate and violence or the new generation of pampered middle-class trustafarians who are desperate to separate themselves from mainstream society.
Students’ unions are not trades’ unions. They are not bound by the restrictions placed on trades’ union activities – but equally they are not protected by the laws that protect trades’ unions either. Those who were complicit in organizing the protests and who facilitated the violence stand at risk of unlimited personal liability as trustees of students’ unions.
I guess taking a year off to become a sabbatical officer wasn’t such a smart move after all, was it?
The National Union of Students, as a non-charitable federation, is even hotter water. Today’s protest was the brainchild of the NUS. Its leaders stand accused of incompetence and stupidity, as well as being branded, whether fairly or not, as co-conspirators and vicariously liable for the criminal actions of its members.
There are many ways in which rogue students’ unions and the profligate, undemocratic NUS can and should be held to account. The law is the friend of ordinary students who wish to study hard and enjoy their experience of higher education. And as the mask and hoodie-wearing thugs who rioted in London today are about to discover, the law is the enemy of those who fail to think through the consequences of their actions on their fellow students, their students’ unions, universities and the NUS.
That is a battle that I am very much enjoying preparing for.
Next month YBF is holding a workshop on students' unions and the NUS. Click here for more details.