Thursday 23-03-2017 - 16:26
On Sunday 12 March NUS held an inaugural national summit to tackle hate crime – ‘Trump, Brexit and Beyond’.
Over 200 people representing colleges, universities, and members of the local community attended the event at the School of Oriental and African Studies to discuss the current political climate in the wake of a Brexit-fuelled spike in hate crime and the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States.
The event was opened by National President Malia Bouattia, who said that she was proud to have made tackling hate crime a priority for NUS this year. She was joined by the newly re-elected General Secretary of the University and College Union (UCU), Sally Hunt, who spoke of the historic challenges currently facing the UK.
"It's time for resistance, for solidarity and to show our strength. Business as usual cannot go on. The time for fighting back is now."
Malia Bouattia, NUS President
"We are currently facing the biggest challenge to democracy since the second world war. We have to emphasise solidarity in our communities… to find unity in voice and unity in purpose."
Sally Hunt, UCU General Secretary
Kevin Courtney, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), also reasserted the importance of solidarity, between staff and students. He highlighted how government initiatives such as PREVENT had helped foster a culture of fear and tolerance, with teachers afraid to discuss the world with their students.
A wide range of workshops took place through the day. Professor Paul Gilroy joined us to lead a workshop on how to tackle institutional racism in higher education, at a time when less than one per cent of our university professor are black. NUS LGBT+ Officer (Women’s Place) Melantha Chittenden chaired an introduction to tools to tackle hate crime, and Yinbo Yu (NUS NEC) led a panel with representatives from Movement for Justice and the Dunkirk Legal Support Group on how student groups could contribute practical solidarity towards migrants.
NUS Scotland President Vonnie Sandlan also chaired a workshop on how to tackle hate crime against Jewish students. Josh Nagli, UJS Campaigns Director, outlined a rise in reported incidences on campuses, and reasserted a commitment to working with NUS to tackle this issue. They were also joined by antisemitism expert Brendan McGeever, who led a wide-ranging discussion on the importance of putting tackling anti-Jewish prejudice at the heart of any anti-racism strategy.
There were more workshops in the second half of the day. SOAS Women’s Officer Fatima Diriye led a discussion on what next for the campaign to tackle sexual harassment, and how to ensure the intersectionality of our movement. Yusuf Hassan, VP Student Affairs for the Federation of Islamic Students Societies, chaired a panel of how to organise against islamophobia – joined by Samayya Afzal from the Students not Suspects campaign against Prevent, and Miqdaad Versi from the Muslim Council of Britain. The other sessions included a workshop detailing NUS’ efforts to tackle hate crime online and reclaim social media, and a discussion led by Black Lives Matter on organising strategies to Stop Trump.
Our final plenary was led by Yasser Louati, a human rights activist from France, and Cazamebe Jackon, from Black Lives Matter, who offered their experiences of fighting state-sponsored racism in their respective countries, and the importance of sharing solidarity as part of an international anti-racist movement.
We were then joined by Guardian columnist Gary Younge, who urged that rejecting the scapegoating of migrants remains at the heart of all our demands. He claimed that it is not migrants that are closing our libraries and destroying our education system, but an ideologically motivated, neoliberal government.
“Struggle is fighting for those whose name we do not know in the promise they’ll come and continue. We rise and fall together. With every breath in my body, if they build a 50 foot wall, I’ll build a 51 foot ladder.”
Gary Younge, Guardian columnist
Speaking after the event, Malia reminded us that this was only the beginning.
“Tackling hate crime has been a priority for the student movement. Now more than ever, with hate crime rising on campuses and in our communities, it is important that our movement stands united to challenge all forms of discrimination and ensure that all students feel safe.”
Malia Bouattia, NUS President