At the panel launch Malia Bouattia declined to discuss the allegations of anti- Semitism and accusations of being an ISIS sympathiser that met her election and also refused to comment on the widening gulf between how the NUS perceives itself and how it is viewed by its members.
The NUS has been attempting to tackle the growing divide between its members and their representatives. Referendums on disaffiliation from the NUS are being held at universities across the country: a clear indication of the strength of the disenchantment felt by its student membership.
Bouattia’s own election, which took place on the final day of the NUS National Conference in April, saw the the successful candidate achieve a mandate of only 50.9%. This figure is used by Bouattia and her supporters to claim the legitimacy “to enact the policies voted for by students at our national conference”. A bold claim – and one which is unsupported by any statistical evidence.
The turnout at UEA in the 2016 NUS delegate elections was 224 individual students. At an institution of over 15,000, that represents 1.57% of the student body, a shockingly low turnout that reflects the national picture. How anyone can claim that UEA’s students are effectively represented by their delegates – or that they have a voice over NUS policy – is a mystery.
The lack of accountability that the NUS and its leadership feel entitled to is shocking; a refusal to engage with media is a hallmark of an undemocratic organization. Happy to sneer at the “ordinary students” it relies on in its existence, the NUS must change its dismissive attitude, or risk losing the little legitimacy it has still clinging to.