Shakira Martin has been in the job since April 2017, having been reelected last March, and her run has not been plain sailing. She took the reins from Malia Bouattia, an extremely controversial leader whose comments on Zionism were condemned by over 300 student Jewish leaders and described as “outright racism” by the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee. Then, in November 2018- less than six months into Martin’s second term- reports surfaced of the organisation’s bankruptcy, with a letter written by Martin herself detailing its £3 million deficit.
When looking for someone to blame for an organisation’s problems, people tend to look up to the top, perhaps making the subsequent push for motions of no confidence in the president inevitable. Student Left Network, a left-wing group that formally launched membership in December, have been especially critical, taking issue with the NUS’s cost-cutting measure of scrapping the Trans Students’ committee, officer and budget.
The pressure appeared to be too much for Martin, who took to Facebook to explain she “couldn’t give 2 shits” about any motions of no confidence tabled against her, adding “you be lucky if I even turn up for conference at this rate [sic]”, a possible reference to the NUS Trans Conference held in January, which voted in favour of a motion of no confidence. She also wrote that “I literally have 20 weeks left in this joke of a role and I swear none of you ungrateful people couldn’t are [sic] counting down the weeks more than me... what I should have been doing instead of focusing on this awful job is focussing on my children that way my girls would have been protected. But no coz I have been running around like some fool putting NUS before my girls I have failed my youths and now they are schooless [sic]”.
For some, the incident is proof of the pressure Martin is under, but for others, it shows Martin’s own volatility (in January 2018, NUS workers were instructed to work from home as the organisation investigated bullying allegations against her). The NUS, clearly keen not to fan any flames, had little to say beyond: “The message was posted to a private Facebook account and has since been deleted, therefore NUS has no further comment”. What happens in the next “20 weeks” with Martin “in this joke of a role” promises to at least be interesting.