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NUS conference debates Holocaust commemoration

The conference also featured debate on Yik Yak and legal highs

The annual NUS conference began with controversy over the leading presidential candidate and ended with calls for Oxford to disaffiliate from the national union after that candidate was elected. In the meantime, the event dealt with issues ranging from climate change to Yik Yak’s role on campuses.

Perhaps the most widely reported event of the conference, held in Brighton, was when Chester University representative Darta Kaleja argued against commemorating the Holocaust on the grounds that it would ignore other atrocities.

“I am against the NUS ignoring and forgetting other mass genocides and prioritising others,” Kaleja said. “It suggests some lives are more important than others. When during my education was a I taught about the genocides in Tibet or Rwanda? It is important to commemorate all of them.”

This was picked up by national and university media sources; though, it was also often taken out of context to imply Kaleja did not want to commemorate the Holocaust at all, rather than wanting it to be remembered with other atrocities.

In the end, the calls for commemoration of the Holocaust passed along with the rest of the anti-semitism motion proposed by Oxford NUS delegates Oh Well, Alright Then. The Oxford representatives also proposed and passed a motion for the NUS to focus on mental health and made speeches throughout the conference, as well as running a popular live Twitter feed of the event.

Earlier in the conference, members voted to move to ban Yik Yak and other anonymous social media platforms for being “not nice.” They also debated lobbying to ban legal highs and denied the movement for One Member, One Vote soundly, keeping the power centre of the NUS relatively small, which some derided as something that will “do wonders for the student engagement that they already didn’t have.”

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