By Gareth Axenderrie
Cardiff Students’ Union has come under fire after it paid for free transportation for students to attend a demonstration calling for a ‘people’s vote’ on the UK’s final deal for leaving the European Union.
The union’s president, Fadhila Al Dhahouri, called on students to “unite against the Brexit madness”, while advertising a rally for a second referendum on the UK leaving the EU.
In a post on Facebook on September 4, the president encouraged students to attend the demonstration that took place in Cardiff Bay on Saturday, September 8.
The post received multiple messages of both condemnation and support, with a heated debate unfolding over whether or not the union should subsidise transport to a political campaign.
Callum Sloper, president of Cardiff University Conservative Society, was highly critical of the Student Union’s decision to pay for the event.
Sloper told Gair Rhydd: “I don’t like the idea of the Student Union and other student officials getting involved with major politics generally, but even less so when it’s something like Brexit which we have already voted on.
“Wales itself voted to leave and Cardiff was one of only five counties which didn’t vote to leave. I don’t think it’s right to start reigniting pointless conversation about a second referendum, particularly by wasting SU money on free transport for a one-sided event.
The real kick in the teeth for students like myself who voted to leave is that she (Al Dhahouri) has abused her position to campaign for a political cause which she knows is a massively divisive issue.
“The real kick in the teeth for students like myself who voted to leave is that she (Al Dhahouri) has abused her position to campaign for a political cause which she knows is a massively divisive issue.
“She’s more than entitled to her opinion and can be as public as she wants, but she shouldn’t use the SU as a tool to help further her beliefs.”
Other students leapt to the President’s defence however.
Emily Millward said: “I think it’s great that the union is organising this. Regardless of your views on Brexit, it’s great that students have the opportunity to get to an event that’ll allow them to have a political voice.
“There’s no such thing as politically ‘neutral’; the students union is political every time it takes a step towards multireligious or LGBT equality, or approves or disapproves the forming of a society.”
Cardiff Students’ Union doesn’t have an official position on Brexit, however the move to subsidise transport for the rally has angered many students who have questioned the decision’s political motivation.
In a statement to Gair Rhydd, Al Dhahouri said her intention was to campaign for certain issues that students face with Brexit, as opposed to highlighting the division that exists.
Al Dhahouri said: “The Students’ Union does not currently have a stance on the Brexit vote– however I want to ensure we initiate the conversations regarding the potential impacts of Brexit on our students, education and universities as a whole.
“Our priority is not the difference of opinion that happened during the vote because the decision has been made to leave the EU. Our priority is to ensure that during the negotiations process protection is given for students’ rights whatever the deal.
“More specifically, I will be campaigning for the rights of EU students, getting clarity for what will happen with the Erasmus+ scheme, and understanding what the impacts Brexit will have on EU funded research and innovation projects.”