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NUS President-Elect Malia Bouattia Prompts Growing Calls For Disaffiliation

The growing storm shows no sign of abating.

21/04/2016 12:36 | Updated 22 April 2016

The National Union of Students faces a growing membership crisis following the election this week of a controversial new president.

UPDATE: Fallout over new NUS president could prompt financial crisis

Students at Manchester, York, Exeter, Oxford and Cambridge universities say they will campaign to demand their student unions cut ties with the NUS.

On Wednesday, the conference elected Malia Bouattia, who has been embroiled in claims of 'anti-Semitism', as the organisation's new leader.

NUS
President-elect Malia Bouattia delivering a speech ahead of her election victory on Wednesday

Bouattia, 28, has been forced to deny the allegations after some of her previous statements came to light.

An article she wrote while studying at the University of Birmingham in 2011 emerged last week stating that the insitution had become "something of a Zionist outpost".

Dozens of Jewish society presidents demanded further explanation, and Bouattia responded in an open letter.

Earlier this week a 2014 video, obtained by The Tab, showed her referencing a "mainstream Zionist-led media".

Bouattia had previously stoked controversy by opposing a motion which condemned the so-called Islamic State.

The election of Malia as NUS President is a horrifying message to Jewish students in the UK Jack May, Cambridge student

Cambridge student Jack May said he was leading a campaign to withdraw his student union from the NUS as a result of Bouattia's rhetoric.

He said: "The election of Malia as NUS President is a horrifying message to Jewish students in the UK. Attention has been repeatedly drawn to her anti-Semitic comments.

"Unfortunately, Malia’s election is just the latest event in a tide of anti-Semitism sweeping UK universities."

This is a deeply disappointing day for Jewish students at Cambridge Adam Crafton, Cambridge student

Adam Crafton, a Jewish student at Cambridge University and supporter of the disaffiliation campaign, added: "This is a deeply disappointing day for Jewish students at Cambridge.

"The NUS claims on its website to be a 'a leading exemplar of equality and diversity.'

"Regrettably, the rise of Malia to NUS President clearly contradicts this mission statement."

A cross-party campaign at York University will argue the NUS is "fundamentally undemocratic", York Vision reported.

Members of Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Green Party societies will co-sign a motion demanding York's student union leaves the NUS.

Meanwhile Manchester University's Conservative society confirmed it would begin a campaign to seek disaffiliation.

Campaigns to cut ties with NUS are not limited to students who didn't attend this week's conference, however. 

Conference delegates from Oxford University confirmed their intention to run a dissafiliation campaign.

Students at Exeter university will get to vote in a referendum called well before this week's conference.

Nonetheless, events in Brighton have emboldened those campaigning for Exeter to disaffiliate.

Thomas Collins, an economics and politics student at Exeter, told The Huffington Post UK: "The conference has energised the existing group of individuals who were disillusioned with the NUS.

"Malia's election has bought more individuals to the leave campaign in the NUS, quite a few have switched from stay to leave since our referendum on the NUS in 2014, it will be close this time around."

As many as 40 universities are expected to face similar calls to cut ties with NUS, according to the campaign group NUSceptics.

The Union of Jewish Students has said that "questions remain" over Bouattia's previous rhetoric.

As president of NUS, I will continue to encourage students to oppose inequality, oppression, including racism.. Malia Bouattia, NUS president-elect

In a statement issued late on Wednesday, Bouattia said: "I am incredibly proud to have been elected as NUS national president and am committed to putting liberation at the heart of the student movement.

"In my role as NUS Black Students’ Officer I have a long track record of opposing racism and discrimination in all its forms and actively campaigning against it.

"Jews have faced horrendous persecution over thousands of years and Jewish students on campuses and elsewhere continue to face anti-Semitism."

NUS UK
The NUS national conference was held in Brighton this week

She continued: "Our movement knows this, and will stand alongside them.

"As president of NUS, I will continue to encourage students to oppose inequality, oppression, including racism, and injustice both at home and abroad."

Earlier on Wednesday, students at the three-day conference heard arguments against commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day.

Responding to a question in the Commons about the debate on Thursday, the Leader of the House, Chris Grayling, said: "It is simply unacceptable in our society, the views expressed yesterday [at NUS conference] are not acceptable.

"It is something on all sides of politics work to stamp out across our society." 

Departing president Megan Dunn, told the NUS conference on Thursday: "The rising levels of anti-Semitism we are seeing on campuses is startling."

She praised the conference for passing measures to tackle the issue and received a standing ovation from attendees.

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