The election of a controversial new president of the National Union of Students, Malia Bouattia, has led several UK universities to consider disaffiliating from the organization.
Dissenters have said that the leadership National Union of Students (NUS) no longer represented the average member. Bouattia has been accused of antisemitism, reports Greg Hurst of The Times. After her election in April, 57 Jewish student leaders wrote an open letter stating that she may be creating or contributing to a climate of suspicion towards Jewish students on UK campuses.
If enough universities decide to leave the NUS, which now includes around 600 UK students’ unions and 95% of all British higher education unions, the organization could lose hundreds of thousands of pounds of income from membership fees and revenue, possibly causing a funding crisis.
The first university to drop out of the organization after the election was Lincoln University, reports Javier Espinoza of the Telegraph. The decision passed by 88 votes.
Next came Newcastle University, the first Russell Group university to leave the union. The Newcastle University Students’ Union (NUSU) cut ties after two-thirds voted in favor of the split. Now the Newcastle students’ union will be its own independent entity.
The Times of Israel quoted Dominic Fearon, president of the NUSU, who said:
“It is clear that our students feel that the NUS no longer represents their views, does not prioritize correctly, and is not effective at achieving change.”
“The current discontent amongst students nationally can be measured in the number of unions considering holding referenda on their membership.”
“We hope that the NUS will acknowledge their shortcomings and will work to become the national union that students deserve and can identify with.”
Many commenters believe that these universities have begun a trend and that other universities will follow. Other universities that are considering holding a vote to disaffiliate include Durham, Edinburgh, Westminster, Aberystwyth, Manchester, York, Exeter, London South Bank, Oxford, and Cambridge.
Bouattia, a former University of Birmingham student and the first black female Muslim president of the NUS, has advocated for Palestinian violence against Israeli citizens and has refused to condemn the Islamic State terrorist group. In a 2014 speech, she said that British student activists should “take orders” from Palestinian terrorists.
She has addressed these concerns by reminding listeners that her family was forced to flee civil war in Algeria when she was a child, and stating that she does not support any kind of racism and oppression.
She won the annual elections in a surprising victory over previous president Megan Dunn by 372 votes to 328 votes. Dunn is one of the few NUS presidents to serve for just a single year.