Monday 03-04-2017 - 10:12
All forms of hate and prejudice are unacceptable, wherever and whenever they occur. I want to ensure that the doors of the student movement are open to everyone – that everyone has the opportunity through education to learn, share ideas and grow without fear. Where students face prejudice I want us to take action and make things better for those who are telling us that things need to change.
That’s why in November last year I launched a research project to understand the experiences of Jewish students in the UK, a first of its kind study for NUS to develop recommendations for students’ unions to work towards making sure universities are inclusive and welcoming to Jewish people. The survey has been conducted against a backdrop of increased antisemitism and reports of hate crime against Jewish people, following the rise of the far right and left after the Brexit vote, and in Europe more widely.
This piece of work is to improve the experience of Jewish students across the movement and to gain a better understanding of the types of hostilities facing them in 2017. We have to understand how we as a collective movement can take steps to ensure Jewish students feel welcome in our spaces and on our campuses.
It’s no secret that NUS along with the wider student movement has been divided on issues regarding Israel – Palestine, and Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaigns. But we are not unique; political parties, governments and whole countries hold a variety of beliefs and often find themselves on similar lines of division. What the student movement must do differently is not allow the political debates to become toxic and ensure that we are allowing our members to engage positively and critically with informed dialogue.
Honestly, given the politics and the sensitive nature of these issues, I’ve been worried about the response to this. I don’t want the experience of Jewish students to be drowned out by the politics that surround this work. The focus of this work must be about outcomes for Jewish students I want to officially state our commitment to improving their time in education, the student movement and in NUS.
It makes me immensely proud as someone who was bullied about their identity at university and targeted on the street for being a gay man to be able to provide this opportunity for others to talk about their oppression. You’ve trusted me with an important part of your identity and faith and my duty to you now is to make sure these findings lead to change.
Robbie Young, NUS Vice President (Society & Citizenship)