The campaign by Bellavia Ribeiro-Addy to become the national student leader took off when a Facebook group attracted almost 500 members in less than a week.
Ribeiro-Addy, 24, currently the black students officer for the National Union of Students, said she wanted to make the NUS a radical organisation again.
She criticised the past leadership for supporting the ‘status quo’, for not being tough enough in opposing student fees, and for taking a soft line on racism in universities.
If successful, Ribeiro-Addy would become only the second black student president, after Trevor Phillips was elected in 1978.
Lambeth councillor Pav Akhtar came within a whisker of winning in 2006, but was pipped to the post in a particularly fraught contest.
However the chances of Brixton resident Ribeiro-Addy winning increased dramatically after her Facebook group Bell Ribeiro-Addy #1 for NUS President enjoyed a deluge of support.
She told OBV Blog: ‘The NUS has lost its democracy and activism. Students want to make a difference but don’t see the NUS doing that. It’s about time we changed that.
‘Some people have been moving with the status-quo, more interested in getting close to the government than representing students interests. We need to say clearly that we want free education and no to cuts.
‘It is economically illiterate to make cuts in an education system that will hinder us coming out of the economic crisis.’
Ribeiro-Addy said this was especially true for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, who were already deserting higher education in droves because they calculated the student fees were too large and the prospects for getting a job too small to pay off the debt.
She added: ‘I also believe that the NUS has too often taken a softer line on racism than I’d like. We also believe in a ‘no platform’ policy when it comes to the British National Party.’
Ribeiro-Addy, who is standing alongside a full slate of likeminded candidates for other positions on the NUS executive, is facing competition for the post of president from the current vice-presidents Aaron Porter, who is himself black, and Richard Budden.
By Lester Holloway
Filed under: Education