Slow off the mark

Anthony Rose was disappointed by the first national Respect student meeting

The first national Respect student meeting, held at Birkbeck University on September 11, was a rather disappointing affair. First to speak was Oliur Rahman, Respect councillor for Tower Hamlets. He led the 50-strong audience through the past, present and future of Respect - as seen through his perhaps slightly rose-tinted glasses. After enduring what seemed like a couple of hours of the now almost mandatory praise for George Galloway at this type of event and a flying visit from John Rees, we finally moved towards an issue with particular relevance to Respect students. Speaking was Suzie Wylie, member of the NUS national executive, but unfortunately not a great deal seemed to come out of the discussion that followed. Yes, we talked about the importance of having left groups at university, but the key issue being pushed was the necessity for Respect student societies to form alliances with muslim and Afro-Caribbean groups on campus, and how vital it was to bring together as broad a collection of people as possible. There was no real political discussion here - simply the basic practicalities behind the promotion and organisation of Respect societies over the next few weeks at freshers' fairs nationwide. Despite the promise of a supply of Respect promotional posters, badges and newspapers for them, all we had to look at during this meeting was a pair of black and white pre-production versions of the Respect student paper, and several photocopied images of badges that may be available. I am slightly cynical as to how much time or money has been put into this aspect of the Respect "brand", as comrade Wylie termed it. With less than a week before the start of freshers' fairs at most universities, it will be a rush to produce and distribute this material in time. Also discussed were plans for a Respect student conference. Hopefully that will be slightly more productive.