Racial insensitivity and cultural appropriation have left members of the team feeling ‘ostracised’Written by Grace Duncan on 16th May 2018
Izzy Lenga Elected NUS VP Welfare
Former Guild Education Officer and current UoB student Izzy Lenga has been elected NUS VP for Welfare at the National Conference in Brighton
Izzy Lenga was elected to become the National Union of Students’ (NUS) Vice President (VP) for Welfare with 393 votes in her favour over Jenny Killin, who received 328 votes. Speaking to Redbrick, Lenga said, ‘I’m really excited to have been elected Vice President (Welfare) for the NUS. I was proud to stand as a Jewish woman, ready to tackle the student mental health crisis and fight for good quality housing for all students across the country.’
“'I am incredibly proud to be representing Birmingham and hope to do the Guild proud!'
Lenga expressed gratitude and appreciation on social media for all the support she received throughout her campaign. She told Redbrick, ‘I would particularly like to thank the Guild of Students and the University of Birmingham for all the support it has given me as both a student and a sabbatical officer. I am incredibly proud to be representing Birmingham and hope to do the Guild proud!’
Redbrick also spoke to Guild President Ellie Keiller, who is leading the Guild’s delegation at this conference, about Lenga’s victory. ‘I’m incredibly proud of the fact that Izzy has been elected as Vice President Welfare of NUS,’ she said. ‘I said it during her campaign and I stand by it now that she's been elected, but I cannot think of a better person for the role this year.
‘In her position as Education Officer at UoB, Izzy fought tirelessly and passionately on issues that directly affected students and I know that she will do the same as VP Welfare. I believe that Welfare campaigns and work that NUS does this year will be relevant to students on campuses across the UK because Izzy will make it so!’
Also attending the conference was former Guild President Jack Mably, who told Redbrick that Lenga has always been a committed student activist, citing his experience of working alongside her in the Guild Officer Team last year.
‘During her time as Education Officer she was responsible for the implementation of full time postgraduate representation, the inclusion of sexual harassment as an extenuating circumstance and worked tirelessly with the team to overhaul the Guild’s democratic structures,’ he told Redbrick.
“She told delegates that if elected, she would make mental health a priority
‘This election is just the next step in a long and successful career for Izzy. Her passion, and unrivalled commitment to making the lives of those around her better, is why she was able to win her election and why she will keep winning for students.
Lenga was running against Jenny Killin who is the current Welfare Officer at Aberdeen University Students’ Association. Following the vote, Lenga took to Twitter to congratulate Killin on a ‘brilliant campaign’, saying that it was ‘a privilege to run in such a friendly election’.
Before the vote, each candidate spoke to the conference for five minutes. Lenga began by telling delegates that her time on the NUS’ National Executive Council (NEC) ‘had not been fun’ but showed hope that the organisation could change. She told delegates that if elected, she would make mental health a priority. ‘We don’t need just another 1 year tool kit and briefing on mental health, we need a long term plan,’ she said.
In an emotional speech, Lenga also opened up about the fascist abuse she has received as Jewish woman in the student movement. Lenga told delegates, despite claiming that she was recommended not to, about her experience of being threatened by a far-right fascist group because she was Jewish. Both candidates speeches were well received, but in the end, Izzy managed to secure a victory by a margin of 65 votes.
Also announced were the successful candidates for VP Higher Education and VP Further Education. Amatey Doku, President of Cambridge University Students’ Union, was elected VP Higher Education with 320 votes, beating Niall Hamilton and Ana Oppenheim who received 122 and 110 votes respectively. Notably, the conference particularly enjoyed Doku’s election speech in which he said that ‘real education is like smooth jazz’ in his distinctively deep voice.
“'we must be under no illusion: the hard work begins now'
In a statement to NUS Press following the election, Doku said that he was delighted to have been elected and thanked all those campaigned and voted for him. ‘However, we must be under no illusion: the hard work begins now,’ he said. ‘With the Brexit negotiations under way and the implementation of sweeping Higher Education reforms, now is the time for NUS to commit all its available resources to fighting for a much stronger voice on a national level.’
Candidates for VP Further Education also spoke to delegates before the election. Both made passionate speeches, in which Myriam Kane addressed Theresa May in several languages to highlight her conviction that we live in a multicultural society. However in the end, Kane missed out by only three votes as Emily Chapman was elected with 91 votes.
Later that afternoon, delegates voted for two more positions: VP Union Development and VP Society & Citizenship. Ali Milani was elected VP for Union Development, receiving 363 votes and beating Aleem Bashir and Matt Grange who each received 15 and 313 votes respectively.
- Amatey Doku, successful candidate for VP Higher Education, speaking to delegates before the vote
Speaking to delegates before the election, Ali told his story as an asylum seeker, a Muslim and an activist. He told conference that he had experienced islamophobia during his election campaign which included finding his face being photoshopped on a photo of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He accused the media of calling students ‘generation snowflake’, and told delegates how he would change the way that students’ unions work.
The final election announcement of the day was for VP Society & Citizenship, and was contested between Danny Nasr and incumbent Robbie Young who was seeking re-election. Nasr received 328 votes, whilst Young received 366 votes, meaning that Young was re-elected VP Society & Citizenship by a margin of 38 votes.
Young told delegates before he was elected how the student movement welcomed him after his experience of being battered and spat on for being a gay man in his hometown of Coventry. He highlighted the importance of the student movement during a period of national division following Brexit and government plans which he claimed ‘will divide us further’.
“‘You can have all the style in the world but you’ve got to have substance’
‘I’m prepared to work,’ he told delegates. ‘You can have all the style in the world but you’ve got to have substance’. Young spoke about the work he’d done in his role this year including sustainability, sex education and refugee collection campaigns. He urged candidates to vote for him to ‘continue what we started’.
As conference comes to its final day on Thursday 27th April, delegates will vote on the NEC’s Block of 15 in which the Guild’s Representation & Resources Officer Elect, Jessica Levy, will be running against 25 other candidates.