|Volume 46 Number 15, June 28, 2016||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
In a series of politically significant votes, students at Oxford University and elsewhere voted to keep their student unions affiliated to the National Union of Students (NUS). A small number of unions at other universities voted to disaffiliate.
Referenda took place at a number of university student unions to decide whether to stay a part of or to disaffiliate from the NUS, following the election of Malia Bouattia as NUS president on April 20. Bouattia has been the subject of allegations attempting to discredit her and associate her with anti-Semitism and extremism. This followed similar accusations against members of the Oxford University Labour Club after its vote to support Israel Apartheid Week and came alongside alleged anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. In fact, the Oxford referendum was proposed by David Klemperer, former co-chair of the Labour Club.
The vote at Oxford University was therefore of particular significance as its union and other student organisations at the university have been at the centre of these developments.
After a heated campaign, with both sides coming under criticism for breaches of conduct, the result announced on June 2 was decisively in favour of remaining affiliated to the NUS. On a turnout of 27.7%, relatively large for student union votes, 57.1% voted in favour of affiliation against 40.7%. 2.3% abstained.
A similar referendum at Cambridge University the previous week had also resulted in continued affiliation, with 51.5% against 46.6%. The turnout was slightly higher than Oxford at 28.8%. 1.8% abstained.
Essex, Exeter, Surrey, Warwick and York student unions also voted to stay part of the NUS. The vote at Worcester was not quorate so the status quo will remain.
Hull, Lincoln, Loughborough and Newcastle student unions on the other hand voted to disaffiliate, Lincoln 50.8% to 46.4% on a particularly low turnout of just 12.6%, and though the vote at Loughborough was not quorate it was approved by the board of trustees.
These results are a blow to the ongoing campaign to discredit and divide the student movement. Far from creating a crisis, it is now its detractors who are on the back foot. Where students have taken a principled, coherent stand, they will emerge stronger. As the Oxford "Yes to NUS" campaign said: "Now the real work starts. We've argued for a strong student movement and now our energies are going towards making that happen."
Sources: Cherwell, Oxford Student, Varsity, Oxford University Students Union, Cambridge University Students Union, Worcester University Students Union, The Independent.