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During Week 21 four delegates from Lancaster University travelled to Brighton for the NUS Conference 2016. The main event of the 3-day long conference was the election of a new NUS President, and this year this was a particularly controversial event.
Malia Bouattia was elected as the NUS’s very first black Muslim female President but her election came with a large amount of backlash from a number of national newspapers and some student unions across the country. It was reported that in the past she had co-written an article calling Birmingham University a “Zionist outpost”. She was also accused, amongst other things, of not supporting a motion which condemned ISIS.
SCAN spoke in an exclusive interview with Laurie Butler, one of Lancaster’s four NUS Conference delegates, and the only one who voted for Bouattia, to find out why the student population backed her.
Butler said that he truly believes that Bouattia will be a very good NUS President over the coming year. He told SCAN that she appears to be “someone who will campaign, fight and win for all students” and “her work on liberation issues and fighting the prevent agenda for example are highly commendable”.
Butler commented on how Bouattia has been portrayed by the media in a way which is not representative of her views but also accepted that some of her comments could have been made more carefully. He believes that “she [Bouattia] has a very strong track record of standing up against Racism and Fascism” and feels that this is something that she will continue to do in her role as NUS President.
One of the issues for Butler regarding the media’s representation of Bouattia comes from their comments that she would not condemn a motion which condemned ISIS. Butler said that he was aware of the comments she had made prior to voting but said that it is “important that people understand the reasons for her not wanting to condemn ISIS and know that she submitted a motion condemning ISIS and voted in favour of it with the wording changed”. He explained that Bouattia “believed the wording in the original motion condemned all Muslims not just ISIS” and this was her reasoning behind not voting in favour of the first motion. Butler feels that instead of being something to be condemned, Bouattia’s choice to vote against the original motion should be praised.
Butler explain that he understands why people felt concerned over some of the things that she said and said that it is still “important that people do question what people say”. Despite this however, he feels that Bouattia has addressed the concerns regarding comments she made about the Jewish community and he said that she “will be someone that helps fight alongside Jewish people and everyone else in order to stamp out any anti-Semitism within the NUS.”
When he voted for Bouattia Butler said that he took into account who would be the best candidate to represent the view of Lancaster students. He told SCAN that he thinks that “she will work hard to fight against the education green paper that’s soon to become a white paper. Something that if it is voted through will have major consequences for students at Lancaster and across the country.”
He continued: “I was also elected on a basis of being in favour of free education and against the cutting of the maintenance grants something I feel Megan Dunn didn’t actively oppose and something Malia will fight for.”
Ultimately Butler feels that “instead of calling for disaffiliation I think students across the country should be uniting behind Malia in order to fight the Education green paper and help defend students’ rights! Fighting will not achieve anything”.