UK’s National Union of Students Elects Controversial Leader

(Photo: Telegraph UK)

(Photo: Telegraph UK)

A campaign to break away from the National Union of Students saw an increase in support from students at several universities after the organization elected Malia Bouattia, who has been accused of antisemitism, to become the organization's new national president.

At the same time, students at Newcastle University are pushing for a referendum concerning whether or not to cut ties with the NUS.

Other institutions including Oxford, Cambridge, York, the London School of Economics, and King's College London have already made the call for referenda on the topic.

Earlier in the week, Malia Bouattia, the organization's first black female Muslim leader, had won 50.9% of the vote to earn her the position of NUS president despite an open letter written by close to 50 Jewish student leaders who voiced concerns over her views on extremism and antisemitism on campuses, writes Javier Espinoza for The Telegraph.

Bouattia is being accused of making anti-Semitic comments, including referring to the University of Birmingham as "something of a Zionist outpost." However, she remains clear that her remarks were meant to be political rather than religious.

According to a leader who was published in the Jewish Chronicle, the concern is that the election of Bouattia as NUS president will result in the widespread belief that antisemitism is appropriate campus behavior. Because some already hold this view, it could make the situation for Jewish students even worse, writes Richard Adams for The Guardian.

"As someone so impressively invested in inclusion, equality, and liberation, Bouattia must work to understand how age-old racist tropes about Jews are a danger to Jewish students, one of the many student minorities she now represents," said Rabbi Leah Jordan, a progressive Jewish university chaplain.

The student body at Exeter University, which is close to 20,000 in all, will be voting next week on whether or not to leave the National Union of Students. Many have argued they disagree with the agendas the group has chosen to support, including its connection to CAGE, the organization that had referred to Jihadi John as "a beautiful young man."

Some students have suggested they would get better value for the money they put into their union membership if the NUS was not a part of it.

A union source said: "There are a wide range of reasons why some students want to disaffiliate. Although there was also a referendum last year, this is quite unusual at Exeter."

Southhampton University cut ties a few years back, saying they were looking for more autonomy and did not want to be follow particular rules such as what to sell on campus.

Other student unions said they had not seen any reaction by students to the events that occurred at the NUS conference.

Meanwhile, the Newcastle students' union said it would hold a referendum if it saw enough support from students.

President Dominic Fearon said: "The NUS only serves the few delegates who attend the national conference; they have very little interest in representing the majority of students.

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