The new President of the National Union of Students, Malia Bouattia, visited Exeter yesterday to campaign for the university to remain in the institution.
The President-elect spent the day campaigning in both the Forum and in DH1, alongside the Stay With NUS campaign and NUS Vice-President Shelly Asquith, talking to students about the benefits of staying within the NUS and what it can do for students.
Bouattia’s election was controversial. Some lauded her election as a step forward, with Bouattia being the first black, Muslim president of the NUS. However, she was widely criticised by Jewish students for making allegedly anti-Semitic remarks. She has since moved to attempt to address these concerns.
The election of Bouattia and criticism of certain motions debated by the NUS concerning Yik-Yak and Holocaust Memorial Day saw a number of universities launch disaffiliation campaigns, including York, Cambridge, Manchester and Oxford. Yesterday, Lincoln became the first university to conclude voting on the issue, opting to disaffiliate by a margin of 77 votes after the president of University of Lincoln’s Student Union, Hayley Jayne Wilkinson, declared she ‘“no longer felt confident” that the NUS represented the views of Lincoln students.
The Exeter referendum on the NUS was not sparked by the above issues, having been announced in advance of the annual conference and Bouattia’s election. The campaign has seen fierce debate between Exiter and Stay with NUS, and has garnered the highest turnout in a student referendum in Exeter’s history, with 2,820 votes being cast as of 20:30 May 9. Students have until midnight on Thursday to cast their votes.