Last year, former National Union of Students President, Megan Dunn, launched an independent review into whether the NUS is institutionally racist. The audit was ordered in response to claims that were made at a meeting of the national executive committee by Malia Bouattia, then NUS Black Students’ Officer. Times Higher Education reported on 5 October that Bouattia was not the only member of the union’s top team to make allegations of institutional racism:
Shelly Asquith, the vice-president (welfare), tweeted that the “student movement [and] its institutions are institutionally racist”. “People need to properly accept that before we can begin to overcome it,” she said. […] Earlier this summer, Sorana Vieru, the vice-president (higher education), criticised universities’ “white, male and stale” environment, and the fact that they employ so few black female professors, in an interview with Times Higher Education.
At the time, the organisation’s chief executive, Simon Blake expected the review to be completed by January. In a letter to NUS staff he said the appointees,
will be asked to explore and understand whether there is evidence of direct or indirect racism within [the] NUS’s culture, systems, policies, processes and structures and make recommendations about any changes we can make to ensure we fulfil our commitment to being an organisation that is truly fair, open, accessible and representative of all.
her election has sparked an array of attacks against her in the media based on racist lies. […] Calls to disaffiliate from NUS have largely been mobilised on the back of these attacks, alongside attempts to belittle and deride the work that NUS does.[…] Some students have argued that we should disaffiliate from NUS because of accusations of anti-Semitism levelled at Malia, many of which were derived from comments taken out of context. Articles reporting these accusations have taken recourse to Islamophobic stereotypes, suggesting they go hand in hand with her being Muslim.
Student campaigns to disaffiliate with NUS have been launched at several universities, including Oxford and Cambridge. JC reports that JSocs at both universities are officially supporting disaffiliation.
Lincoln and Newcastle have already disaffiliated. It has become a battleground between those who feel they should stay in order to force through change (see poster above), and those who seek to paint NUS as unreformable, or in the words of pro-Israel MP and former NUS president, Wes Streeting, “NUS is lost I’m afraid. It’s had good leadership from Megan Dunn, but it no longer represents students well.”
It is in this febrile atmosphere, that the internal review into institutional racism is being invoked by those in the ‘Yes to NUS’ campaign to win over Zionists.
In Cherwell yesterday, Rivka Micklethwaite made a heartfelt plea: expressing her strong support for Bouattia, she writes that “as a Jewish student at Oxford,” she believed leaving would be “damaging to the fight against anti-Semitism”: Continue reading “The battle for the soul of the NUS and a hijacked review into institutional racism”