Update 22/04/2016: Individual members from student societies across the political spectrum at the University of York (UoY), including the “Labour Club, the York Tories, the UoY Lib Dems, York UKIP, York Greens, PalSoc, York Liberty and York Union”, have announced that they will be working together to write a motion demanding York University Student Union leaves the NUS.
In addition, the Conservative society at the University of Manchester has also announced that its members “will support and campaign for Manchester SU to disaffiliate from the NUS.”
Yesterday saw Malia Bouattia elected as President of the National Union of Students (NUS), despite her campaign being marred by allegations of antisemitism.
Bouattia won on stage one of the count with 372 votes, 50 more than the incumbent, Megan Dunn.
Criticism of Bouattia’s activism has been widespread in recent days, with a number of Jewish Society presidents saying her previous remarks are “reminiscent of the age-old antisemitic idea[s] of Jewish power and Jewish control.”
On Tuesday meanwhile, video footage of Bouattia defending violent resistance at a Palestine solidarity event also came to light.
While such narratives aren’t uncommon on campuses, the NUS should be leading the fight against these views. Instead, Bouattia’s victory has further diminished the likelihood antisemitism or extremism on campus will be taken seriously
Several student groups have reacted negatively to Bouattia’s election victory and are calling for their unions to disaffiliate from the NUS.
Four delegates from Oxford University, who attended conference hoping to reform the organisation, have said the election of Bouattia “clearly show[s] an NUS out of step with the views of ordinary students”.
They go on to say:
“The point of a union for students is to deliver real representation for all students, and what has occurred this conference shows that this is no longer a priority for those who hold power in the NUS.We therefore announce our intention to seek a referendum to disaffiliate from the NUS, and will support a motion to that effect in OUSU Council.”
Similar action has been taken by students at the University of Cambridge, who have submitted a motion to their student union which would ensure an institution-wide referendum before the end of the academic year.
Student Rights is also aware of a disaffiliation referendum planned later this year at the University of Exeter, and rumours of students at other institutions considering similar action.
Bouattia’s victory may mark a low point for the NUS, but the tide appears to be turning. It is clear many students are fed up with the failure of the NUS to deal with antisemitism and its record of cosying up to extremists.
We will continue to follow events closely, and work to ensure those who seek to use campuses to spread hatred and division are challenged.