A vice-president of the National Union of Students has said the organisation is “failing as a movement” because many Jews feel unwelcome and accused the union’s ruling executive of trying to sideline the representative body for Jewish students.
The withering verdict by Rob Young comes in an article for the Jewish News in which he also discusses research he has commissioned into the experience of Jewish students within NUS and student unions nationwide.
During meetings with J-Soc’s nationwide earlier this year, Young, who serves as vice-president for society and citizenship, said he found some students were “angry and upset that the movement that was meant to represent them was becoming an unwelcoming places for their voices…They felt that some officers in NUS don’t care as much as they should about Jewish students.”
It comes amid ongoing concerns over new President Malia Bouattia, who has previously spoken of “Zionist-led media”, and claims she hasn’t done enough to address her past statements and the general concerns of students about rhetoric on campus. His comments also follows a public row erupted over a decision that Jewish members of the national executive committee would choose a Jewish representative on the union’s anti-racism anti-fascism group – seemingly ending the traditional role played by UJS in the decision.
Despite UJS long playing a leading role in efforts to combat the far right, he said, “It seems the that the National Executive Council of NUS want to ensure that we are not working with UJS as closely as have in the past – and this is something I stand totally against. I will keep fighting to ensure that UJS are present at the table when we are working on the ARAF campaign.”
Young pointed out, however, that the union’s national conference, at which Bouattia was elected, passed motions to combat anti-Semitism and commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day. But saying he was voted in to fight for relationship education and votes at 16, he added: “By making our spaces unwelcoming for Jewish students, we are not only failing to focus on these challenges, we are failing as a movement that represents all students.”
He added: “I want Jewish students to be able to take a leading part in my campaigns and in the work of NUS, and not have to simply defend their right to be there.”