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Students demand YUSU withdraws from “absurd” NUS

Image credit: www.marxiststudent.com
Image credit: www.regonline.co.uk
Image credit: www.regonline.co.uk

Following controversy at the 2016 conference in Brighton, several members of the leading political societies at the University of York are to submit a proposition for a referendum on the University of York Students’ Union (YUSU)’s membership of the National Union of Students (NUS) as soon as possible.

Political affiliations are not impinging a movement calling for York to leave the NUS. Matthew Dent, of the York Tories, describes “a non-party group of students seeking to free York from this absurd institution“. Stephen Harper, of the Labour Club, has also asked Labour Club members for support in this initiative. They join a number of disenchanted students from other universities such as Manchester and Cambridge in wishing to leave the National Union following events at the conference, now into its third day.

With the student union’s annual general meeting and Full Time Officers’ Question Time on Monday, it is possible that such a submission will feature in a matter of days.

So far into the 2016 conference, Malia Bouattia has been elected the organisation’s president, soon to become the first black Muslim female to hold the position. Miss Bouattia’s election has caused controversy and condemnation following previous accusations of anti-Semitism and hesitance to condemn the Islamic State, as well as support from a Muslim organisation banned from university campuses by the NUS. Matthew Dent wrote online that the NUS had “elected a terrorist sympathising anti-Semite for a President.”

Elsewhere, the NUS has debated enforcing restrictions on social media, following widespread anonymous online abuse. YUSU President Ben Leatham took to Facebook on Wednesday to clarify that the NUS was not calling for a ban on Yik Yak. Citing Yik Yak’s rules on unacceptable behaviour, Mr. Leatham stated:

This happened during the YUSU elections. People were targeted. It was out and out harassment and it was not acceptable. Yik Yak and other social media platforms MUST abide by their own rules and ensure that the brave people who put themselves forward for election can do so with the knowledge that they will not face harassment of any kind, on any platform.

That is why I voted in favour of this motion.

However, Mr. Leatham admitted that he thought the NUS motion, for which he voted, was “vague and unclear.”

While YUSU’s President Ben Leatham, his successor Millie Beach and several colleagues join other union delegates in Brighton for the National Union of Students’ 2016 conference, several students on campus are voicing their disdain for the conference’s proceedings and agenda. On Facebook yesterday, Ben Froughi, a York student, wrote his frustration at a motion submitted by YUSU on mental health, unanimously accepted by the NUS delegates, describing incumbent Community & Wellbeing Officer Scott Dawson’s speech as “[doing] nothing better than [perpetuating] the notion that students are fragile, weak and incapable of dealing with expectations.” His remark received a collection of critical responses on Facebook.

In response to students’ desire to leave the NUS, the York student and transgender rights campaigner Ashley Reed described the University of York as a “shitty, boring right wing bubble” and suggested she would “drop out” of the university if the student body voted to leave the national union.