NUS finally allows Jewish students to choose their own representation
After months of waiting, CUSU receives a reply to an open letter calling for the NUS to address allegations of anti-Semitic policies and remarks.
Jewish students will no longer be stripped of the right to select their own representatives on the NUS anti-racism committee.
The NUS’ response begins by asserting that the organisation “has always led the way on challenging racism and fascism”, and states that this is “something we are all committed to.”
One of the main complaints against NUS was about changes to the Anti-Racism Anti-Fascism (ARAF) board. In February, NUS voted to remove the Jewish position on ARAF, the only representation of Jews on NUS.
Resulting pressure from universities threatening NUS-exit led to a promise of reinstating the position. However, after the referenda, the NUS National Conference voted that Jewish students will not be able to elect their own representative on ARAF.
However, the NUS’ recent response suggests that they have backtracked on their original decision concerning ARAF, and will at least allow Jewish members of the NEC to vote on a representative. Malia’s comments were as follows:
“I listened carefully to these voices and, because I am determined the ARAF campaign will develop to become a central plank of our redoubled efforts to tackle fascism in the current environment and that a space on the campaign committee will always be reserved for a Jewish student, I have issued an interpretation of policy which will ensure that representatives of the committee will be elected autonomously by self-identifying caucuses.”
The letter also points to an external enquiry into racism in the NUS, which is now underway, and will report at the end of the year. Malia herself was investigated and issued with an “informal warning” for comments made in 2015.
However, Bouattia has since stated that she “and the NUS full time officer team, believe there is no place for any form of racism, including anti-Semitism, in NUS, or across the student movement.”
Cambridge’s students’ union, which may have taken a month to send NUS the letter, said they were “encouraged” by the response. They noted that “only Jewish students will be able to judge whether the measures were sufficient.” New President Amatey Doku announced “a Jewish Students’ Consultation” to be carried out “at the earliest possible convenience.”
“The aim of this consultation will be to understand more fully the past and present experiences of Jewish students in relation to the NUS but also in higher education more broadly. This will shape the way in which the new team holds the NUS to account in its stated commitment to anti-racism.”
Yet anti-semitic behaviour continues amongst the UK’s top universities. Izzy Lenga, who attends the university Malia previously described as a “Zionist outpost”, was the victim of an antisemitic hate campaign on twitter after drawing attention to a poster that went up on campus, which said “Hitler was right”.
The response also comes days after an ex-student officer described protecting Jewish students in NUS as “airing dirty laundry.”
In a statement to The Tab, one senior JSoc official commented that “It is encouraging that the NUS has clarified its position so that Jewish students will be able to elect their representative on the ARAF, and that an external inquiry will be taking place with regards to antisemitism within the NUS.”
However, in comments to The Tab, other members of JSoc voiced their remaining concerns with the state of the NUS.
“Many Jewish students will still continue to feel alarmed that Malia Bouattia has not acknowledged or responded to concerns over her past rhetoric, which has been deemed problematic by many.”
“The letter still refuses to acknowledge that NUS has done anything wrong, which is a bit rich seeing as they’ve only backed down over ARAF after massive public pressure.”