After Malia, the NUS is still broken
Malia Bouattia has been voted out of office at the NUS conference. She’s no longer our president. Goodbye and good riddance. Over the past year she has given students nothing but a bad name. With her past comments on Zionism, viewed by many as crossing the line into anti-Semitism, and her constant running away from taking responsibility for her words and actions, she will not be missed.
However, the NUS is still broken, and still crap. We should give credit to the new NUS president Shakira Martin for vowing to fight anti-Semitism — but she is still a standard student politician. She believes a BBC comedy skit called ‘The Real Housewives of ISIS’ was racist. She’s also fairly hysterical about Tory politicians, telling students they are ‘out to get every single one of us’. This kind of rhetoric, common in student politics, achieves very little.
And post-Malia, the NUS will still involve itself in issues that have nothing to do with it. Does it really think Israel gives a crap what NUS officials think of it? Then there are its madder, patronising polices: No Platforming offensive speakers; creating Safe Spaces for students, as if we are children; advising against clapping at NUS meetings, on the basis that clapping might ‘trigger’ people, and preferring the use of jazz hands instead; and clamping down on pub crawls and happy hours in the name of keeping students secure. Between its pretence that it has global influence and its obsession with policing students’ lives, it’s no wonder the NUS feels to many students like a broken union, utterly out of touch.
The most irritating thing about the farce of the NUS and its leaders isn’t that most candidates are petty authoritarians — it’s that students do not even have a say on who the leaders are. One Man, One Vote (OMOV) doesn’t exist in the NUS; instead things are done on a very questionable delegates basis. Tomorrow, a vote will be held at NUS conference on implementing OMOV, but given that the NUS doesn’t even trust students to listen to controversial people or socialise as they see fit, I’m not holding my breath that it will allow us to elect NUS officials directly. And so the door remains open for more bonkers student politicians, more Malias.
Ultimately, if we are to reform the NUS then all students must have a vote at NUS conference. But most student politicians know they wouldn’t stand a chance of getting elected if they were accountable to normal students. So they stay in their own bubble, making up ever-more irritating and illiberal policies, still broken even now that Malia has gone.
Ieuan Joy is a writer and student.