The National Union of Students’ (NUS) has just published a report titled ‘The Experience of Jewish Students in 2016-17’. This report has been worked on for several months, looking into the experiences of Jewish students across UK campuses, with the aim of helping students’ unions and the NUS being more inclusive towards Jewish students. The report has many findings and recommendations for unions to act upon and RUSU shall take these on board.
The report publishes findings on hate crimes and racism, provisions for Jewish students (including prayer spaces and kosher foods), academic coverage of Judaism, Israel and Palestine, and engagement with the NUS and students’ unions. There are good and bad findings as with any report. The key recommendations for students’ union are to identify key officers to work with Jewish Societies (Jsoc) and Jewish students, commit to actively engaging with Jewish students and being representative of them, ensuring Jewish students have spaces in which to talk and raise issues, and to take forward issues raised by Jewish students.
RUSU welcomes the findings of this report and it certainly highlights positive and negative experiences faced by Jewish students. RUSU has a good relationship with the Jsoc as it does with all its clubs and societies, including those from underrepresented groups of students. We have been having conversations about experiences that are faced here at the University of Reading from these groups and constantly work towards improving this. RUSU is committed to implementing the recommendations in this report and hope that we can work with the Jsoc to strive towards a more inclusive union and university for Jewish students.
Josh Nagli, Union of Jewish Students (UJS) Campaigns Director, has said this in response to the report:
We welcome the findings of this report that highlights the combination of positive experiences and challenges faced by Jewish students on campus, and are grateful to Rob Young for undertaking it. It provides a series of thoughtful and constructive recommendations that, if implemented by NUS, Students’ Unions, and Higher Education Institutions, will have a profoundly positive impact on Jewish student life.
In the last 12 months, Jewish students have regularly raised concerns, particularly about antisemitism on their campuses and the toxicity around the Israel/Palestine debate. It is therefore unsurprising that the report shows that such a large number feel uncomfortable engaging with NUS and student politics. The organisation and its leadership must work to rebuild trust with Jewish students and, along with students’ unions and higher education institutions, aim to fully understand Jewish students’ needs; we hope this report will act as a catalyst for this to happen.
It is time that NUS delivers on its commitments and takes action to ensure that Jewish students feel able to engage in the national student movement. We look forward to working with them, students’ unions and higher education institutions in order to implement the report’s recommendations over the coming months.
The full report can be found here