NUS votes to censure its president for breaking the union's Israel boycott policy

Students argued Coca-Cola's sponsorship of an event broke the union's policy

Jon Stone
Tuesday 21 July 2015 11:40 BST

The National Union of Students has voted to censure its newly elected president for accepting a controversial sponsorship deal from a US soft drink giant.

Megan Dunn, who was elected by delegates in April of this year, accepted Coca-Cola’s sponsorship for an annual NUS awards ceremony.

Some of the NUS’s local constituent unions boycott Coca-Cola as part of their ethical investment policies. The NUS also adopted a similar policy in August 2014.

Senior officers who boycotted the NUS Awards 2015 ceremony in protest, explained their position earlier this month.

“The Central Bottling Company Ltd, which operates the Israeli franchise of Coca Cola as ‘Coca Cola Israel’ from production to distribution Coca-Cola, operates factories of the illegal Israeli settlements of Atarot, Shadmot, and in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights,” a statement read.

“There is thus a clear, direct line of accountability whereby Coca Cola, through its operations in Israel, is active within illegally occupied territory, in the process keeping occupation a viable exercise for the Israeli state.

“The responsibility thus lies on NUS to implement its policy and break ties with the company until it at the very least ends complicity in the Israeli occupation.”

Those who boycotted the event include Malia Bouttia, the NUS Black Students’ Officer, Maddy Kirkman, the NUS Disabled Students’ Officer, Piers Telemacque, the NUS Society and Citizenship VP, Shakira Martin, the NUS Further Education VP, Fran Cowling, NUS GLBT Officer, Sorana Vieru, NUS Higher Education VP, Shelly Asquith, NUS Welfare VP, Susana Abena, NUS Women’s Officer, and Mostafa Rajaaj, NUS International Students’ Officer.

A number of local union representatives and officers also refused to attend.

In a separate motion the union's executive affirmed that boycott policy applied to Coca Cola Enterprises, calling for the company to "cut all ties" with the firm".

Ms Dunn, who describes herself in her Twitter profile as a “drinker of diet coke”, was censured by the union’s national executive, whose successful motion criticised “Dunn’s refusal to accept that Coca Cola is a target of the BDS movement or to release an apology for accepting their sponsorship”.

The vote was reportedly passed by 20 for, 14 against and two abstentions.

Around 50 local student unions opposed to the motion also sent a letter to the NUS's NEC not to pass the motion on Coca-Cola.

The NUS rules say a censure vote is a criticism of the individual or group and stern indication that the body is unhappy with their work. It is less serious than a fully-fledged vote of no confidence, which calls for that official's removal.

Earlier this year Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticised the NUS for its policy: "They boycott Israel but they refuse to boycott ISIS," he said at a press conference. "They condemn Israel and do not condemn Isis; they condemn themselves. Israel has an exemplary democracy. We have academic freedom, press freedom, human rights. ISIS tramples human rights to the dust."

The NUS however passed a motion in December of last year to condemn Isis and express solidarity with Kurdish fighters. It had previously rejected a motion that included a clause on Isis, arguing that it was flawed and formulated in an Islamophobic way.

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