Find out more about UJS’ response to the publication of Rebecca Tuck KC’s report into antisemitism in the National Union of Students.
An independent KC report into antisemitism within the National Union of Students has found that NUS has consistently failed generations of Jewish students. The leading KC Rebecca Tuck found that Jewish students have faced harassment and discrimination and complaints by Jewish students have been consistently ignored and not believed. This damning report into the national representative voice of students follows years of controversy culminating in the government cutting ties with the organisation due to its problems with anti-Jewish racism. NUS has a history of not following through on previous report recommendations – with a ‘short-lived’ institutional memory.
Joel Rosen the President of the Union of Jewish Students said:
“This landmark report sets out in granular detail how NUS has failed generations of Jewish students. It is a searing indictment of anti-Jewish racism at the heart of student politics. It confirms that Jewish students faced harassment and discrimination and that complaints of antisemitism were dismissed and disregarded.
“It is vital that this report is translated into meaningful and immediate action. All eleven recommendations in the report should be implemented. We now need to see a fundamental change within NUS’ culture and Jewish students will judge them on their actions.”
- The KC found NUS to have an overall “hostile environment” (p.5) towards Jewish students.
- Previous reports commissioned into NUS about antisemitism have been clearly ignored with little to nothing being done about the previous findings and recommendations(pp.19-39).
- NUS statement – NUS has described the report as “a detailed and shocking account of antisemitism”.
- Jewish students did not feel welcome or included within NUS (p.1).
- The report confirms numerous cases of antisemitism.
Key examples –
- 2022 examples of conspiracist rapper Lowkey being invited to conference.
- NUS ignored a Jewish student complaint of someone calling for a ‘final solution’ on Jewish representation on the Anti Racism Anti Fascism committee at an NUS NEC meeting. Despite the offence being pointed out and insisted upon by NUS staff, the student leader refused to apologise.
- Jewish students on NUS committees feel tokenised and victimised, losing all identities other than being Jewish.
- NUS failed to act when student was barred from a bar for wearing religious head covering.
- “Jewish students attending NUS conferences have felt unwelcome and on occasion even afraid for their physical safety” (p.72)
- NUS have a short institutional memory, deleting key documents within a short time frame (p.22).
- NUS recommended to set up advisory board to ensure the report is implemented (p.39).
- Experience of Jewish students - KC found harassment (as defined by the Equality Act) towards Jewish students within NUS.
The KC includes first hand quotes from Jewish students including –
- “I had to hide my Jewishness” (p.64).
- “Personally shaking and almost in tears” (p.71)
- “So upset and totally unwelcome” (p.65)
- NUS have a blind spot for any antisemitism other than that of the far right (p.1).
Rebecca Tuck KC’s independent investigation into antisemitism in the National Union of Students finds an environment that was hostile to Jewish students, who were the victims of discrimination and harassment over decades. The report details “numerous instances of antisemitism within NUS” (p.1), with structural and repeated failings in the organisation. Having interviewed close to fifty individuals and groups and examined NUS’ processes and policies, Tuck found that generations of Jewish students were let down by “inadequate” structures and operations within the union. This has led to an environment where they “have not felt welcome or included in NUS spaces or elected roles” (p.1).
The report considers previous reports into the NUS, including those conducted in 2005, 2016 and 2017, and finds that “implementation [of these reports’ recommendations] has been inconsistent and institutional memories short-lived” (p.1), in part due to an inappropriately short data retention policy, which hindered the investigation at times. Tuck’s recommendations, in particular the first which instructs an “advisory panel” to oversee their implementation, ensure that they will not be dismissed and ignored by NUS leadership, as previous reports’ recommendations were.
The KC found a pattern of Jewish students being homogenised and stripped of their other identities in NUS, such that they have been “reduced to being only “the Jew” in the room” (p.2). Regardless of Jewish students’ political views they were “stripped of any [...] characteristics” other than being Jewish and answerable on Israel, such that they were then “treated as a pariah at NUS events” (p.2), in a way that was “discriminatory”.
In 2016, NUS NEC met to discuss whether to remove the Jewish position on NUS’ anti-racism and anti-fascism committee. A member of the NEC said that the proposal about representation was not “the final solution”, and then refused to rephrase this, and no NUS staff members intervened. Another NUS staff member who had not been present in the meeting told the KC this was “an example of [a] groundless or bad faith allegation […] of antisemitism” (p.60).
In testimonies, Jewish students detailed how their experiences in NUS spaces left them “personally shaking and almost in tears” (p.71) and in “a state of significant distress” (p.69) due to the harassment which they faced, paired with a culture of by-standing by NUS staff. The report sets out in detail how generations of Jewish students have faced a hostile, distressing and discriminatory environment in NUS.
The investigation also considers the events of NUS National Conference 2022. To mark NUS’ centenary, Kareem Dennis AKA “Lowkey” was invited to perform despite his history of offensive remarks, support for conspiracy theories around 9/11 and Ukraine, and appearance with known individuals who have expressed antisemitic views, which UJS made representations to the NUS leadership about. Tuck finds that NUS “did not carry out any ‘due diligence’ to consider whether performers shared the values of their organisation” (p.89), and it was “entirely inappropriate and unsatisfactory” (p.94) to suggest that Jewish attendees find an alternative space during the performance. The report also details how NUS staff were put in a position where they felt they had to circumvent their own elected officer team and “informally approached” (p.94) the venue about conspiracist rapper Lowkey’s performance, which led to this being cancelled.
This report has outlined the significant and important issues within NUS. The report ends with recommendations for the organisation to follow:
- To establish an advisory panel to ensure the implementation of the recommendations
- To significantly improve policy around record keeping
- To implement a due diligence process for election candidates
- To review the process around election and code of conduct complaints
- To undertake antisemitism training, provided by UJS
- To create important and relevant educational materials
- Improve the environment of discussions around Israel/Palestine
- To re-establish the anti-racism anti-fascism committee of NUS
- To undertake a survey of Jewish students to test the implementation of these recommendations
- To consider the best approach to policies around Conference speakers/guests
- To undertake a governance review
If these recommendations are taken on, Tuck believes that NUS can begin supporting all students and become the organisation that they should be.
|Background On The Inquiry|