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NUS Votes to Support Suspended Students

Delegates gather for NUS' 2012 National Conference
Delegates gather for NUS' 2012 National Conference • Photograph: Redbrick

The National Union of Students (NUS) has approved a motion to its National Executive Council (NEC) to support the three students given suspensions following protest action on campus over the past year.

Three University of Birmingham students, Poppy Wilkinson, Zarah Sultana and Erin Lee currently sit on the committee, all having been elected at NUS events earlier this year. The motion was proposed by the current NUS Vice President (Society & Citizenship), Piers Telemacque, and those who seconded the motion included Sultana and Birmingham student, Malia Bouattia.

The original motion resolved to support the campaign to overturn the suspensions, to provide the suspended students with money for any legal costs incurred and to collaborate on the coordination of a protest demonstration on campus. It claimed the suspensions were ‘an attack on the right to protest and freedom of expression’ and set ‘a dangerous precedent for the ability of students across the country to engage in protest without fear of repression.’

However, Wilkinson submitted an amendment to remove the resolution to coordinate the demonstration, which passed. The amended motion was also then approved by the NEC, with Wilkinson and Lee confirmed to have voted in favour.

Wilkinson told Redbrick, ‘As President of the Guild of Students and a member of the NUS NEC I submitted a procedural motion to remove a section of the motion that called for a demonstration at Birmingham. I fundamentally believe that it is not the role of the NUS NEC to dictate to unions whether to hold a demo on their campuses. NEC agreed with this and voted to remove that section. I then proceeded to vote for the amended motion. NUS now has policy regarding these suspensions that echoes many of the issues that we outlined in our original statement namely, the time this process has taken.’

Another motion, considered highly controversial, that passed at today’s meeting included a commitment to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement amid military action between Israel and Palestine. The Union of Jewish Students expressed concern at the approval of this motion, claiming it ‘is a failure of NUS to maintain its duty of care to the variety of student groups it must endeavour to represent.’ The majority of the meeting was spent discussing this motion, with many other motions at the meeting left undiscussed. 

The NUS represents all students at affiliated Further Education and Higher Education institutions across the United Kingdom, and was founded in 1922 by a group of students’ unions, including the Guild of Students.

Read more in Defend Education