Following a string of controversies surrounding the National Union of Students (NUS) and its leadership, the Government has decided to sanction the organisation, removing it from all official groups and committees and refusing to engage with it. The move follows calls for the measures by Campaign Against Antisemitism and others.
A Government announcement said that “NUS will be removed from all Department for Education groups and replaced with alternative student representation…The Department for Education has also confirmed that the NUS will not receive any government funding…The allegations of antisemitism, which have been well-documented and span several years, have prompted a feeling of insecurity amongst Jewish students across the country and a worry systemic antisemitism within the organisation is not being properly addressed.”
The news comes despite NUS promising to ‘independently’ investigate itself in the wake of numerous antisemitism scandals. In one recent scandal, the rapper Kareem Dennis, known as Lowkey, was due to headline NUS’s centenary conference. After initially dismissing the concerns of Jewish students and telling them to stand in a segregation away from Mr Dennis, the union came under media scrutiny and eventually Mr Dennis withdrew from the event.
This scandal was immediately followed by the election of Shaima Dallali as NUS’s new President, despite her history of antisemitic tweets and other inflammatory social media posts. Prior to the election, she apologised for one such tweet, but later told The Guardian that it is “absolutely not true” that “I don’t like Jewish people,” nevertheless, “as a black Muslim woman, it [the allegation] is something that I expected.”
In a tweet about the new sanctions, Michelle Donelan, Minister of State for Higher Education, wrote: “Enough is enough. I’ve prepared a package of sanctions against NUS following concerning incidents over many years. Disappointed it has come to this but proud to stand up for Jewish students. NUS will not have a seat at the table until we see real change.”
In a tweet backing his colleague, Nadhim Zahawi, Secretary of State for Education, wrote: “Jewish students need to have confidence that they are being represented, and student bodies must speak fairly for everyone. This will remain until issues are suitably addressed.”
A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “The Government has taken a firm stand shoulder to shoulder with Jewish students and the Jewish community at large after years of antisemitism scandals at NUS. We have found the Government to be very receptive to the concerns that we and others have expressed and these sanctions are precisely the measures that we had hoped to see implemented. We will now see whether these sanctions jolt NUS into action, or consign it to irrelevance. Student organisations are supposed to be filled with voices of hope, not bigotry. Those at NUS who have allowed matters to degenerate this far should be deeply ashamed that it has come to this.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism and others had been calling for the measures. Last month, Robert Halfon MP wrote together with Campaign Against Antisemitism to the Charity Commission calling for an investigation into the union’s charitable arm. The full dossier on NUS, produced by Campaign Against Antisemitism, can be read here. The Government has now also added its voice to calls for an investigation by the Charity Commission.
Campaign Against Antisemitism also made representations to the Government on the matter, including at a campus antisemitism summit organised by Mr Zahawi. In addition to Campaign Against Antisemitism, UJS, CST and others have also called for action.
In recent weeks, over twenty former NUS Presidents wrote a letter expressing their “serious concerns about antisemitism”, and another letter, organised by the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) and signed by over 1,000 Jewish students and allies, called for NUS to launch its ‘independent’ investigation.
In a statement NUS repeated its assurance that it would undertake its own investigation and lamented that “the universities minister [sic] has press released that they will be disengaging with NUS rather than seeking to engage with us directly.”
If any students are concerned about antisemitism on campus or need assistance, they can call us on 0330 822 0321, or e-mail [email protected].