The President of the National Union of Students (NUS) has been accused of “deeply dysfunctional” and “antidemocratic” behaviour by fellow union members.
Shakira Martin has been criticised repeatedly on Facebook and Twitter, with colleagues from within the National Executive Committee (NEC) coming forward to denounce her
A member of the NEC, Myriam Kane, told Cherwell: “The reason why I’ve decided to speak out now about this issue is because a number of others within NUS had enough, were getting nowhere with internal procedures, and started speaking out publicly.
“The environment was becoming toxic to the point I have to mentally prepare myself before going to conferences, or NEC meetings, where Shakira will be present.
“I don’t know what the next attack will be on me (Shakira all but names me in her video posts), or how I can fulfil my duty as NEC member holding her accountable when I avoid saying her name because I’m scared if I don’t she’ll make it personal.”
A member of the NUS Postgraduate Student Campaign, Amelia Horgan, has also criticsed Martin’s manner when engaging with colleagues.
Speaking to Cherwell, she claimed that 10 per cent of NEC members had been blocked by Martin on social media for disagreeing with her.
She continued: “Martin threatened to take our phones away if we tweeted negatively about the meeting. Of course, personal attacks should not be tolerated, but the NUS President
has a problem with any kind of criticism.
“The NUS President does what she wants – from ignoring democratically-passed policy, to threatening officers, talking down to volunteers, and to blocking anyone who dares criticise her.
“Her behaviour is unacceptable and the chaos it causes is deeply damaging to the NUS.”
Martin said in a post on social media: “These 6 months I have experienced some of the worst harassment and provocation but I have stayed quiet up until this point for the sake
of needing to ‘get on with the job’.
“Not only this but I have been baited and provoked on purpose and recorded in my own workplace by those who claim to support working class black women like myself but would happily push me to the limit and watch me break.”
Aliya Yule, a former Oxford student, told Cherwell: “I was elected to NEC this year with high hopes and expectations, which were quickly shot through with the realisation of how deeply factional organising divides NUS.
“I don’t think having different groups with different political priorities – and different values – is necessarily a bad thing, but the way that it plays out is horrific.
“I think Shakira has had a really difficult time, and there have been examples in the press of deeply racist and patronising coverage of her, and I am sure that some of her behaviour is a product of how hostile NUS can be.
“But for all my time in student organising, never has it been so difficult to be able to voice opinions without fearing being blocked or yelled at in person or via Facebook live videos, and it’s absolutely hampering the ability of us to work in NUS.
“What kind of example does it set, or what kind of message does it send to people excited to get involved, that this is the kind of behaviour that’s acceptable?”
Martin will stand for election again in March at the 2018 NUS National Conference.
Oxford students will be able to vote for their own NUS delegates in the upcoming Oxford SU elections.
Martin did not respond to Cherwell’s request for comment.