Student elected to a top NUS job takes wide view

By Jennifer Lipman, May 3, 2012

A Jewish student elected to a senior full time post on the UK's umbrella student organisation believes she is proof that it is possible to engage with both Jewish and wider university politics.

Rachel Wenstone, 23, was elected as the next vice-president, higher-education, of the National Union of Students at its annual conference in Sheffield last week.

She is the first UJS-affiliated student in at least a generation to serve at such a high level in the national organisation.

Ms Wenstone, who grew up in Liverpool and is a former Harold House volunteer, will start the permanent position in June.

She will put her Master's in human rights, at the London School of Economics, on hold to take on the role.

A former Leeds University student, Ms Wenstone was active in JSoc there as an undergraduate but also heavily involved in student politics, serving as a lead sabbatical officer and spending two years on the NUS national executive committee.

Celebrating her win over two other candidates, she said it still had not sunk in. Her key aims will be to help NUS "decide what we are for as well as what we are against" after internal splits over how to handle the university fees increase.

Speaking days after anti-Israel activists vandalised the UJS stall at the conference, Ms Wenstone said she believed NUS had to be at the forefront of tackling antisemitism. But she said Jewish students should not let themselves be defined only by Jewish causes.

"You can be interested in both. I think Jewish students feel they can't have politics outside Jewish issues, and that's not true," said Ms Wenstone, a former winner of the UJS Alan Senitt Memorial Trust award.

"Some of the most passionate student activists are Jewish.

"We should be changing the world around us and not just looking inside. It changes how people see us as well. It's about not being marginalised and not allowing people to marginalise you."

Last updated: 2:02pm, May 3 2012