NUS President Malia Bouattia has been accused of making anti-semitic remarksNUS

CUSU Council has voted to hold a referendum on CUSU’s membership of the National Union of Students (NUS).

In the aftermath of the election of Malia Bouattia as NUS President, Council ruled that a vote should be held. It was the final motion of a near five-hour long session of CUSU council.

CUSU’s sabbatical officers have also been mandated to draft a letter criticising Bouattia for alleged anti-Semitism.

There was a heated debate at Council over the decision to hold a referendum, with the motion calling for one, proposed by Jack May and seconded by Adam Crafton, receiving several amendments.

The motion was split into two parts, one mandating CUSU’s sabbatical officers to send a letter to NUS condemning anti-Semitism, and the other to mandate a referendum on CUSU affiliation with NUS. A provisional count for the vote for part two passed with 32 for, seven against, 10 in abstention, and five invalid papers, numbers which have now been confirmed by CUSU.

Adam Crafton argued that Bouattia's anti-Semitic rhetoric was an issue “because Jewish schools need security guards just to get through the day, because anti-Semitic violence and attacks are on the rise, and because the NUS is supposed to represent students across the UK.”

Crafton also emphasised the fact that "85 per cent of students present at the last Jewish Society meeting voted in favour of a referendum”, and claimed: “If you can't take those concerns seriously, then I think we have a real problem.”

However, Angus Satow, Vice President of Magdalene College JCR, said that, while he was not denying the "furore" that has occurred as a result of Bouattia's election, Bouattia had put "liberation politics at the forefront of her campaign".

There was further controversy over the wording of the motion, which initially stated: “CUSU resolves to mandate that CUSU sabbatical officers stay officially neutral during this referendum.”

Some argued that mandating that the sabbatical officers remain neutral would be detrimental to the referendum, as they work closely with NUS and thus might be able to offer useful perspectives.

Charlotte Chorley, CUSU Womens’ Officer, described the initial wording of the motion as a “somewhat sinister comment on democracy”. However, Jack May, who proposed the motion, responded: “we’re not trying to gag anyone; we’re not trying to silence anyone”.

Crafton then asked for assurance that CUSU would not “immediately come out and be dismissive of the concerns of Jewish students” should the referendum go ahead, citing the fact that the President of Oxford’s Student Union spoke against disaffiliation in The Independent the day after a referendum was announced.

That part of the motion was then removed as part of an amendment.

Olly Hudson, President of Sidney Sussex JCR, then argued that Bouattia’s election could be seen as “symptomatic of something deeper' within NUS, citing the removal of the automatic right of a Jewish student to sit on the NUS' Anti-Fascism Committee.

An amendment was then passed to shift the focus of the motion away from Bouattia’s election specifically, and to focus more on the consideration that the NUS may have “structural” problems with anti-Semitism.

There was then a lengthy and heated debate over the sentiment behind Bouattia’s comments, with Anna Khalfaoui arguing that Western media has a “pro-Israeli bias”.

Queens’ JCR co-president Joseph Levin made a speech against Bouattia, quoting and NUS conderence attendee as saying “NUS has a problem with Jewish students”.

A vote for the new position of Disabled Students’ Officer was mandated, and the election for Co-ordinator was delayed. A decision on the future of The Cambridge Student will be taken next week.

In a statement after the vote, Jack May, founder of the NUS: Let Cambridge Decide campaign said: "This is a great decision from CUSU Council. The assembled representatives of over 22,000 students at the University of Cambridge have said in the strongest terms that they condemn the language used by the new President of the NUS. The coming referendum will now allow students to have their say on the NUS's direction, and we encourage all students to vote on May 17th."

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