Cambridge University Students’ Union Will Hold a Referendum on NUS Affiliation On May 17th

Last night Cambridge University Students’ Union (CUSU) approved a motion to hold a referendum on whether they should disaffiliate from the National Union of Students (NUS). 

The motion was proposed to the CUSU council by the NUS: Let Cambridge Decide campaign and passed with 36 votes to 6. It was decided the referendum on CUSU’s affiliation with NUS will be held on May 17, with votes closing three days later on May 20.

Adam Crafton, one of the founders of the campaign, spoke to the council saying the referendum was “about giving people a choice” while stating that “anti-Semitism is not a historical artefact of the 1940s. It exists in our everyday life.”

The campaign to leave was sparked when NUS elected its new president, Malia Bouattia, at National Conference last month. Bouattia’s election campaign was hit with claims of anti-Semitism when leaders of Jewish societies and other students penned an open letter questioning some of her previous statements, including one article that branded the University of Birmingham a “Zionist outpost”, an article she co-authored.

A statement on the CUSU website reads: “CUSU maintains a zero-tolerance approach to all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism, and keenly awaits a clear response from NUS regarding how the concerns of many of our students, particularly Jewish students, will be institutionally addressed.”

Since being elected, Bouattia has responded on several occasions to the accusations of anti-Semitism, stating: “In my role as NUS black students’ officer, I have a long track record of opposing racism and discrimination in all its forms and actively campaigning against it.

“Jews have faced horrendous persecution over thousands of years and Jewish students on campuses and elsewhere continue to face anti-Semitism. Our movement knows this, and will stand alongside them.”

Following the vote, Jack May, a Cambridge student and founder of the leave campaign, said: “This is a great decision from CUSU Council.”

“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 17.”

Cambridge isn’t the only university union with rallies for disaffiliation. Following last month’s NUS conference, campaigns were sparked at multiple SUs all over the UK.

A disaffiliation referendum will also be held in May at Exeter University, but this was arranged prior to Bouattia’s election.