Jsoc President: Why Nottingham should say No to NUS

There are some key issues that cannot be ignored when making your decision

This April the NUS, the people who represent you and me, elected Malia Bouattia as our President. You have probably seen her name thrown around numerous times in the last few months – and if you haven’t yet familiarised yourself with her, her presence as the leader of the NUS is a very sorry sight for Jewish students.

Bouattia has often displayed or aligned with views that Jewish students have found worrying. In 2011 Bouattia declared that she found Birmingham’s large Jewish society “a challenge”. Bouattia is happily endorsed by the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, an organisation that told Jews to take their “Holocaust, roll it up nice and tight, and shove it up their (be creative)!” Furthermore she has repeated old, offensive stereotypes around Jews controlling government and the media, and in one instance she claimed that “Zionist lobbies” control the government’s ‘Prevent’ counter-terrorism policy.

Bouattia has been elected to be the voice of all students within this country: she is essentially the voice between us and our country’s legislators. However, her opinions do not resonate with the average, decent student. One would think that the voice of all students would look to represent the population broadly and not look to marginalise. One would also think that the President would look to more progressive politics that do not include voting several times to not condemn ISIS. To be in an organisation led by a President who espouses such divisive views is not an organisation I would wish this university to be affiliated with. Indeed, it doesn’t have to be anymore. However, the issues do not merely stem from the President alone.

The NUS has become a stale organisation who have failed to represent us on the issues we hold dearest. The NUS has failed too often to ensure that we are not continuously lumbered with more student debt and lower maintenance grants. Indeed, we have failed to see any recent response to plans for the government to increase our fees even further. Whilst failing on these key issues the NUS has focused on implementing regressive policies; such as emphasis on no-platforming voices that many see as progressive, for instance, the banning of life-long gay rights activist Peter Tatchell. The NUS has also looked twice at advocating schemes to increase the price of alcohol on campus, as well as wasting time and our contributions bureaucratically arguing if organisations such as ISIS should be condemned. It needs to be noted that the use of our membership funds towards their political canvassing for this upcoming referendum is not welcome.

The NUS no longer speaks for the average student and has failed for too long to look after our interests. Yet, whilst we pay thousands per year to ensure they can speak for us, their delegates and President neglect the larger, progressive issues. They concentrate on motions that many would consider as regressive or that marginalise parts of the student population. It was in fact the delegates who, despite a letter signed by the UK’s 57 JSoc presidents condemning her rhetoric, voted for her to be their leader – and the same delegates that applauded, twice, speeches arguing against motions around the commemoration of the Holocaust.

By voting to leave the NUS we can regain our own voice and look towards our own initiatives. Nottingham students will continue to have a positive impact on our city, country and beyond, without being affiliated to an organisation whose politics are sinister and mislead. As the NUS is no longer in touch with the average student, we need to ensure our student politics are focused more towards the overarching issues and not over the minutia that makes us feel that the NUS is a foreign body to the regular student. That is why I hope the university votes to leave. It is a vote for a refocus towards more poignant issues to our community – let alone it being a vote that states anti-Semitic rhetoric is not acceptable in any way shape or form.

For too long the Jews have been a people that have not enjoyed the benefit of a safe space. People of other minorities, rightly, are entitled to a safe space. So why aren’t we? As President of the Jewish Society I have received many complaints from my members saying that they no longer feel safe being a Jewish member of the NUS. They feel like their Judaism, or even their Zionism, is something that they should be ashamed of. I believe in free speech and even the right to offend, but what I don’t believe in is a group of people being made to feel victimised just for being different. Can you imagine if a president of the NUS espoused rhetoric that made black students embarrassed of being black, or LGBT students ashamed of their sexual orientation. Why should it be different for the Jews?

Please join me on June 1st and say No to NUS; as voting to leave is a vote to regain our voice, a vote for self-determination, and most importantly, a vote for progress.

The referendum regarding Nottingham’s affiliation to the NUS will run from 9am on Wednesday 1st June to 12pm on Thursday 9th June.