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The fight against racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia

Monday 14-03-2016 - 14:15

I, as NUS Vice President Further Education, believe that we made a mistake at the last NUS National Executive Council on 25 February by passing a motion that undermines the principle of self-organisation in the fight against racism.

I made a mistake in voting in favour of this motion. I’ve reflected on this issue and feel that it is vitally important to clarify my position and correct this mistake.

As a National Officer, representing 4.1 million students including thousands of Jewish students studying within further education, I believe that autonomy, self-organisation and inclusion are vitally important principles in fighting against racism and fascism.

Rising racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia all pose a serious and urgent threat to the welfare of students in colleges and universities across the UK. It must be a top priority of NUS to unite students in the fight to root out these evils.

All students have a role to play in the fight against racism. However I believe that those who experience racism should lead this fight. I also believe that groups who experience racism themselves should be able to choose who they put forward for leadership positions in this fight. In other words, I believe that self-organisation of oppressed groups must be a bedrock of our work against racism.

Since it was created, the NUS Anti Racism Anti Fascism Campaign has been co-convened by the NUS Black Students’ Officer and a Jewish student on the NUS NEC in discussion with the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) – all of this in consultation with the NUS President.

The NUS Black Students Campaign represents 1 million students of African, Arab, Asian and Caribbean descent. The Union of Jewish Students represents over 8,500 Jewish students studying in the UK and Ireland.

It therefore would be entirely correct for the NUS President, who has formal responsibility for appointing the Co-Convenors of the NUS Anti Racism Anti Fascism Campaign, to approach the NUS Black Students’ Campaign and the Union of Jewish Students and ask them to put forward their own leaders to take these roles.

The motion that was passed by the NUS NEC changes this convention. Instead, the new policy of NUS is that the Anti Racism Anti Fascism Co-Convenors should be i) the NUS Black Students’ Officer and ii) a person “elected from, and by, the NUS NEC” and that this elected co-convenor “should self-identify in a group targeted by racism and/or fascism.”

This change of policy attacks the principle of self-organisation for Jewish students. It will replace a representative of Jewish students with someone elected by members of the NUS NEC, including those that do not experience racism. Who leads NUS’ anti-racist and anti-fascist campaign is an important issue. The NEC has made a mistake in removing a guaranteed Jewish representative from the leadership of our Anti Racism Anti Fascism work.

I believe the NUS NEC should correct this error as soon as possible and I will be discussing with colleagues on the NUS NEC, the NUS Black Students’ Campaign and the Union of Jewish Students to put forward a new motion to restore the previous convention. We need to continue guaranteeing Black and Jewish representation within the leadership of the NUS Anti Racism Anti Fascism Campaign and uphold the principle of self-organisation in the fight against racism.

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