Could King’s be heading towards a NUXIT?

The NUS President elect has divided opinions across campus

On Wednesday 20th April, Malia Bouattia achieved almost 51% of the votes against Megan Dunn to  become NUS’s first black female and Muslim president – a result which will undoubtedly go down in history.

However, Malia’s past comments in which she called the University of Birmingham ‘something of a Zionist outpost’ were later picked up on prior to the election day. Open letters were exchanged to and from Malia and the various Presidents of Jewish Societies across UK campuses. There have also been allegations that Malia refused to sign a motion condemning ISIS, with publications and social media accounts branding her an ISIS sympathiser.

The NUS’s capability and their capacity to represent the millions of students in the UK have been called into question for a number of years now, but Malia’s election appears to have ignited these concerns with many students now questioning the democracy of the organisation.

Already 24 universities (including King’s) have set up campaigns to disaffiliate their union from the NUS. Could this be the start of a national student referendum on NUXIT – do we remain or leave the NUS?

The Tab has spoken to some of King’s students on the matter.

Sophia Nash, campaign director of Hear King’s Roar: Say No to NUS (a Facebook page created just after the election) said the following:

“Calls for KCL to hold a referendum to leave the NUS have been occurring for years, but following the NUS’s rejection of OMOV (one member, one vote) at their annual conference and the election of Malia Bouattia, elected by a mere 372 votes out of the 7 million students in the NUS, it is clear the NUS no longer represents its members.

“We are calling for a referendum to be held, to allow KCL students to decide for themselves whether they want to be controlled by the NUS any longer or if they want KCLSU to be a free, autonomous body. Regardless of one’s stance on remaining in the NUS, I’m sure we can all agree that letting the student body vote on the issue is the democratic, fair thing to do.”

However King’s student Tom disagrees with the argument of disaffiliation, he believes that change can only happen from within:

“I think the campaign to leave the NUS is motivated by fringe elements who are using the election of the NUS’s first Muslim female President as an excuse to leave the NUS.

“The criticisms of democracy and the NUS’s usefulness are not new. I personally welcome them. We need to be having this discussion and the only way that can happen is when we’re inside the NUS. Not outside of it. It’s quite concerning however that now is the time people have decided to campaign against the NUS by using the attention around Malia’s election as a springboard to further their agenda.”

When asked about Malia’s refusal to sign a motion condemning ISIS, Tom had this to say:

“Malia did not fail to condemn ISIS. She has never disagreed with the principle of condemning ISIS. She was critical of the wording within a motion.”

In an interview with Channel 4, Malia confronted these rumours saying that she refused to sign the first motion because its wording “blurred the line between condemning ISIS and holding all Muslims accountable for their actions”. She then went on to condemn ISIS in the second and clearer motion. In this interview she also confirmed her anti-Zionist status.

When questioned about Malia’s views, Sarah, a Jewish student at King’s, had the following to say:

“I do not think that Malia’s election correlates directly to her views on Israel or her views on Palestinian resistance (her words), so I don’t think it means that the NUS is any less representative as an organisation.

“I do not feel that Jews as a whole are particularly well represented across universities and I believe that there is a growing anti-semitism problem. But I don’t think leaving the NUS will help resolve this.”

However, English student Ruth wants KCLSU to be a free body, and she believes that leaving the NUS is the only way to gain independence:

“The NUS, in its current politicised and sanctimonious form does not represent the diversity of ideologies we see in our student body nor the range of interests important to students. Yes, many King’s students are left-wing, but that does not warrant the single-minded outlook of the NUS, which has been highlighted by the recent controversy over Malia’s comments.

As a London university, we should pride ourselves in encouraging a range of cultural, religious and political views through a KCLSU that is independent from the control of a larger union which has quite frankly become poorly managed, disreputable, and obsolete.”

Student Zahra Butt expressed the following:

“It is clear that the leave NUS campaign, beginning in earnest directly after the election of our first Muslim woman of colour as president, is no coincidence. It’s evident that for some the leave NUS campaign is an adequate guise for their Islamaphobic rhetoric and racist narratives.”

So you’ve heard some of King’s voices but what do you think?

Are you in or out? #NUXIT

The President of King’s Jewish Society and Head of King’s Israel Society have been contacted for statements