At this years NUS annual conference a motion to censure (a formal ‘slap on the wrist’) the Black Students’ Officer Bellavia Ribeiro-Addy was passed, while an identical motion against Daf Adley, one of the LGBT officers, was defeated.
The censoring of the Black Students’ Officer and attempted censoring of the LGBT student officer is completely outrageous. The Black Students’ and LGBT campaigns are both autonomous parts of the NUS and subsequently, so are their Officers. They are mandated by their own campaigns, elected by their respective conferences and therefore accountable only to the minority groups they represent.
All the liberation campaign officers seemed to respect and understand the autonomy by which their campaigns run, and voted against the censure. Ribiero-Addy and Adley were not elected at an Annual Conference, and therefore are not accountable to the entire NUS’ demographic, whereas the members of the NEC (the National Executive Committee) who voted to censure Ribiero-Addy are. It is the NEC’s job to uphold the values by which its liberation campaigns run, and it is not the place of individuals who do not self-identify as part of the Black Students Campaign to vote in the censoring of its elected officer. Similarly, students who do not self-define as LGBT should not have a say in what the LGBT Officer or campaign does. The censoring of these two liberation officers is interference in the liberation campaigns and an attack on their autonomy.
The walk out by Black and LGBT students following the vote to censure was clearly indicative of the outrage and offence caused. It is also distressing to see that several members of the NEC, including NUS President Wes Streeting and Vice President Union Development Richard Budden, voted to censure the black students’ officer rather than supporting her autonomy. The fact that this motion was allowed to be voted on at annual conference is a disgrace. The fact that it was supported by members of the NEC including the President is an affront to the liberation campaigns and is indicative of the NEC’s lack of commitment to minority groups. Significantly, it is worth noting that in this situation, all of the liberation campaign officers were against this censure, whereas none of the NEC members who voted in favour identify themselves as belonging to the Black Students Campaign.
At a time when the far right and groups like the BNP are growing in influence it is crucial to have an NUS that fights to uphold its No Platform policy and defend its liberation campaigns when they are under attack. I would like to know why Wes Streeting and the other members of the NEC voted to censure Bell, undermine the work of the Black Students’ campaign and completely undermine the No Platform policy of an organisation they are supposed to be leading. Responding to criticism, Wes Streeting has issued a statement which unfortunately completely fails to address the fact that these are autonomous groups within the NUS and should not be accountable to annual conferences. They should only be accountable to the students who elected them.