Louis Ashworth

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  • NUS VP Richard Brooks defends NUS whilst distancing himself from Malia Bouattia
  • Tense debates over experiences of Jewish and black students in NUS and student politics
  • Eduroam down, but we’re still streaming


With no questions left to ask, we’ve come to an end. Voting will open on the 24th May! Louis, Ellie, Ankur and Siyang, signing out.

When I say that we should engage, this is not to say that Jewish students should be on the frontline debating issues...which cause them harm. Cambridge students should be mandating CUSU officers like myself to engage.

Priscilla Mensah, speaking about engagement, reform, and the open letter she was mandated to write

8:59pm Julius Haswell is saying it is inappropriate for Jewish students at Cambridge to be encouraged to participate more if they simply “don’t want to”.

8:57pm Satow is discussing what he perceives as misinterpretation of Malia Bouattia’s stance of ISIS. Gendler points out her use of the term “Zionist lobby”.

8:54pm Loud round of applause as Satow finishes. Chair Brendan Mahon: “We have to be out by nine”.

Disaffiliation does not offer a positive vision, in dividing ourselves into smaller groups we cannot fight against racism.

Angus Satow

Let's get stuck in with democracy

Angus Satow

8:53pm Satow mentions some campaigns that the NUS has contributed to: against restricting freedom of information, loans for postgraduate students, helping the divestment campaign.

We wouldn’t have achieved shit without the National Union of Students.

Angus Satow on arguments about student fees

If we continue to stand behind a orgnaisation that is anti-semitic, when the organisation is filled with mysogynists and racists, we will be expected to stand behind them too.

From Gabriel Gendler’s speech earlier

8:50pm Angus Satow is the next speaker against disaffiliation, setting out a positive vision for the NUS.

8:49pm Gendler argues that when you see any sort of systemic problem like this, you must immediately cut it out to show that it is unacceptable.

Where were our allies when Malia Bouattia was elected?

Gabriel Gendler

8:46pm Gabriel Gendler points out that the NUS is an organisation in which Malia was allowed to work for several years without anyone calling her out - she was allowed to run for president, and was elected even after the open letter signed by 57 Jewish union presidents.

8:46pm Gabriel Gendler going for a furious attack on the NUS, citing his experience as former president of the Jewish Society. “We don’t have a liberation campaign...we exist in significant numbers in less than 10 universities”.

We as Jewish students have been pointing out the problems with the NUS for years and years.

Gabriel Gendler

In the same way I want to no-platform any racist organisation, I want to boycott the NUS

Gabriel Gendler

8:44pm Lottie McNally and Priscilla Mensah locked in debate, after McNally says Mensah would take an issue which affected another minority more seriously. Arguments now starting over the definition of “anti-Semitism”. Gabriel Gendler about to speak.

8:44pm Cornelius Roemer makes the case that the NUS is not the only way student unions can campaign at the highest level, saying that if there is significant support for a motion, they can make the government will listen.

If a Jewish student calls it anti-Semitism, it’s anti-Semitism...anti-Semitism is everyone’s problem

Priscilla Mensah

8:41pm Brooks argues that splitting into a number unions of students is counterproductive, as it is easier for the government to ignore them. He says that what students need is a strong and united national organisation.

8:41pm Richard Brooks says that NUS is campaigning on what Cambridge students care about, and that the only way to make change at a government level is to maintain a “strong national, collective voice”.

8:37pm Responding to a question about the misrepresentation of Malia's comments, Gabriel Gendler agrees that Palestinian voices are often ignored, but also says that the delegates who voted for her were aware of the open letter from Jewish unions about their concerns, and that they voted for her anyway reflects a problem.


8:33pm We’re very much in the long grass over the issue of Bouattia’s alleged anti-Semitism. The Israeli/Palestinian topic is now being brought up.

8:33pm Brooks points out that Bouattia is not president yet, which is rebutted by Crafton who questions the relevance of this line of argument unless change occurs before her presidency begins.

I’ve said before – I did not vote for Malia.

Richard Brooks

8:29pm Priscilla mentions that the Black Students' Conference is later this month, and that she hopes to be there so that she can tell them why their direction is wrong and the things they need to change. She will not be able to go if Cambridge disaffiliates.

[Bouattia] represents every one of the seven million students in the UK. Not just some of them.

Julius Haswell

8:26pm Crafton to Olufemi: “I agree with so much of what you have said”. However, he points out his concerns that black students’ campaign in NUS was run by “problematic” Bouattia.

8:26pm Priscilla: When someone says something deeply racist and offensive, I do not walk out of the room, because I stay there to represent Cambridge students. That is what engagement looks like.

It is not talent that gets support for BME students, it is the efforts of the people who work with the wider organisation of the NUS.

Lola Olufemi, opposing the argument that autonomous campaigns are talented enough to do their jobs on their own

8:24pm Things getting heated between Lola and various members of the Yes campaign, needing Stewart to intervene to keeps things “cordial”.

Want to hear more from Lola? Read her comment piece on NUS disaffiliation here.

8:21pm Olufemi also points out that when we talk about engaging with the NUS on these issues, it is not the responsibility of Jewish students to have to fight for themselves; it is also a job for allies. 'Anti-semitism is a problem for all of us.'

8:20pm The No Campaign stress the point that the NUS debate needs to be more than just Malia's anti-sematic comments.

The problem of anti-Semitism is everybody’s problem.

Lola Olufemi

8:19pm Lola Olufemi says that we need to "stay in the conversation to make change", just as is told to Cambridge's various Liberation campaigns

There is so much that it does that to reduce the NUS to a single person does a disservice to the whole organisation.

Lola Olufemi

8:17pm Lola Olufemi is now speaking against Cambridge leaving.

8:17pm Wijetilaka argues that it is wrong of CUSU/liberation campaigns to say they want the NUS if they are anti-semitic; that we should have confidence in CUSU autonomous campaigns to function on their own; and that Malia came from an NUS liberation campaign, which is troubling.

If they [Cambridge's representive at the NUS] are doing as much as they can and not getting anywhere, it is just indicative of the deep problems that run through the NUS.

Shani Wijetilaka

8:13pm Shani Wijetilaka argues that the NUS cannot be reformed; the problems “run too deep”. She calls the organisation an 'echo chamber' that has been “hijacked by the far left”, evidenced by Malia Bouattia's election.

8:11pm Helena Blair, CUSU access officer, discusses her expereince working with NUS. She says her ability to contact NUS when deliberating on problems brought to her by Cambridge JCRs was extremely beneficial.

8:07pm Brooks brings up the 1994 Education Act, which the NUS played a part in shaping.

I don’t believe in value-for-money arguments when it comes to affiliation to organisations

Priscilla Mensah

8:05pm Priscilla agrees that it is true that a number of students' unions are not part of NUS and are doing fine financially - however, she points out most unions receive a block grant from their universities of up to £3mil, but CUSU doesn't. She says CUSU pays a minimal affiliation fee of £250, and earned over £13k from NUS Extra cards last year. As we know, this is not money CUSU can afford to lose.

8:03pm Julius Haswell pointing out that many student unions have survived despite being disaffiliated.

8:02pm Getting into the technicalities of the of the NUS’s Anti-racism, Anti-facism (ARAF) group, and who can sit on it.

8:00pm Brooks acknowledges that there is a discrepancy in the way in which we speak about Jewish students as opposed to about other marginalised student groups. He also says that the NUS will try to tackle the problem in a number of ways, including an anti-racism investigation that explicitly will include Jewish students. He also promises that there will be another motion at the next conference to restore a reserved Jewish position as one of two conveners of ARAF, the Anti-Racism Anti-Fascism committee, which was replaced with an NEC member last conference. He can't promise that the motion will pass, however.

7:58pm Brooks finishes off with a joke about no-platforming. Strong applause. Adam Crafton is now asking why Jewish students “should have to fight this hard”.

In a year where the NUS is changing things, I ask to you Cambridge students: why wouldn't you want to be in the room, shaping that?

Richard Brooks

If you acknowledge the fact that you have to engage to win, you need to acknowledge that you can't win every time.

Richard Brooks, citing freedom of information in universities and delaying the fee increase as issues that students must engage with through the NUS


7:55pm Brooks has described Bouattia’s comments as “wrong”. He says anti-Semitism is a “very serious problem”.

7:55pm According to Brooks, the NUS Extra card has saved £2.2mil in the past 18 months, and put over £3mil back into students' unions.

7:55pm Richard Brooks cites council tax exemption, 16-25 railcards and NUS discount cards as NUS successes.

7:54pm Richard Brooks will talk about how the NUS has changed lives for the better. He says the NUS does two things: campaigning and lobbying, and developing and supporting the 600 students' unions that are a part of it.

7:52pm Looks like Eduroam isn’t coming back.

7:52pm The debate has been paused momentarily whilst internet connection is re-established. The tension in the room is unreal.

7:48pm Eduroam is still down, so we are operating from phones. Brooks’ reaction to the news of no internet: “Blame it on NUS”.

7:48pm A brief pause as we try to get eduroam back - thanks Louis' phone. Richard Brooks from the NUS is up next!

When I launched this campaign, it was never about minimising the voices of the autonomous campaigns; it was about providing a voice for a minority group of students who are being oppressed by a national organisation.

Adam Crafton

7:47pm NUS VP for development Richard Brooks will be speaking next.

Recent events pose serious questions about the organisation commitments to tackle racism.

Adam Crafton

7:45pm Adam Crafton: Malia's 'continuous failure to apologise' for incidents of antisemitism 'means that when the NUS goes into important meetings....how can they expect to be taken seriously when anti-semitism is present at the highest levels of their structure?

7:45pm Crafton is laying out his criticisms of NUS as institutionally anti-Semitic. 

7:44pm Crafton says that the support for exit campaign is not only supported by “white, conservative” students.

7:42pm Shortly before Crafton’s speech, Lottie McNally and Lola Olufemi had a heated argument about the effect NUS membership has had on liberation campaigns. 

As someone who works on two liberation campaigns, we get ignored all the time.

Lola Olufemi, refuting the suggestion that Cambridge is at the forefront of liberation issues

7:42pm Internet has just gone down here. Running on phones. Adam Crafton is now speaking.

7:38pm Haswell’s question: Where does the NUS come in when dealing with mental health problems in Cambridge? Response from Mensah: What the NUS does is provide information about mental health across the UK and provide training for dealing with these problems.

7:37pm Julius Haswell (ex-Varsity) says he “struggles to see” how the NUS has helped supplying information on mental health issues.

7:36pm The Yes campaign say that they would consider a re-affliation debate every 3 years.

7:36pm Lottie McNally, Adam Crafton and Robinson College’s Martha Krish are debating the effects of the government’s white paper.

7:35pm First question from the floor, for Lottie: it's important to have political representation, it's not irrelevant for them to pass motions on these things, especially with the current government. Response: the NUS spends too much time discussing global or international issues, not about the day-to-day lives of students.

If you think CUSU is shit, remain, if you think NUS is shit, remain!

Priscilla Mensah, pushing for reform not disaffiliation.

7:33pm Priscilla has just finished speaking, and we are now taking questions from the floor.

7:33pm She gives examples of mental health, rent, and the BME attainment gap as issues that the NUS is essential in helping students' unions tackle.

7:32pm Priscilla on the reaction she received at NUS conference as someone from Cambridge: “they automatically thought I was a nob”.

Very legitimately I considered resigning during Lent Term

Priscilla Mensah on the difficulties of being a students’ officer

7:30pm Priscilla says that this morning she drafted a letter to the NUS demanding a 'clear plan of action' for how they will address the fact that Jewish students are currently being made to feel unwelcome in the NUS.

Cambridge students should vote to remain in NUS, not because it’s perfect, but precisely because it is not

Priscilla Mensah

7:28pm CUSU President Priscilla Mensah is the first speaker against disaffiliation. She promises to outline how the NUS helps CUSU and rebut the points made by the previous speaker.

Student’s unions do not benefit at all from this useless chatter.

Lottie McNally on the condemnation of ISIS by NUS

7:27pm 'I want to make it clear that we do not oppose CUSU.' First speaker Lottie McNally, a first-year student, arguing that NUS hinders, rather than helps, sabbatical officers to do their jobs. Calls NUS divisive, extremist, and mired in identity politics, and argues that it should be focusing on 'real student concerns'.

7:24pm Aaaand we're off (20 mins late...). Jemma Stewart begins with information regarding the referendum, which you can helpfully find here.

7:15pm Just over twenty people here - maybe half are student journalists. Not quite as popular as CUSU Council has been, which would have been a crushing insult about a month ago.


7:13pm In case you didn't already know, NUS VP for Union Development Richard Brookes is lined up to speak against disaffiliation today. This has already caused quite a stir on both sides - should be interesting!

7:04pm We're Siyang Wei and Ankur Desai, here to keep you up to date with the NUS disaffiliation debate whilst you pretend to revise. Varsity editor Eleanor Deeley will be on the @VarsityUK Twitter this evening, and she'll also be tweeting along with Deputy Editor Louis Ashworth in their personal capacities. As ever, all views expressed are their own.

Welcome to Varsity’s live blog of the CUSU hustings on the NUS disaffiliation debate.