Sur­vey re­veals Jewish stu­dents’ dis­trust of NUS

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY LEE HARPIN STATS

A SUR­VEY con­ducted by the Na­tional Union of Stu­dents to “im­prove knowl­edge and un­der­stand­ing” of the ex­pe­ri­ence of Jewish stu­dents has re­vealed their grow­ing alien­ation from the in­sti­tu­tion that is meant to rep­re­sent them.

The study found that 65 per cent of Jewish stu­dents be­lieved the NUS did not re­spond ap­pro­pri­ately to al­le­ga­tions of an­ti­semitism. Sixty-eight per cent said they did not feel com­fort­able with their stu­dent unions adopt­ing BDS as a pol­icy.

In a fur­ther sign of in­creas­ing de­tach­ment from the NUS, al­most half of those ques­tioned, 49 per cent, said they would not feel com­fort­able at­tend­ing union events.

Asked if they would feel com­fort­able en­gag­ing in the NUS pol­icy-mak­ing process, 42 per cent of Jewish stu­dents said they would not.

Some 485 stu­dents re­sponded to the sur­vey, which is en­ti­tled “The Ex­pe­ri­ence of Jewish Stu­dents 2016-17” and was car­ried out by an NUS re­search team in co-op­er­a­tion with the UJS be­tween last Novem­ber and Fe­bru­ary.

Asked if they felt con­fi­dent in ex­press­ing views on Is­rael in class, 45 per cent said they did, while 50 per cent said they felt com­fort­able en­gag­ing in cam­pus de­bate on the Is­rael/ Pales­tine is­sue.

The report con­cluded: “The at­ti­tudes of lec­tur­ers and stu­dents to­wards is­sues re­lat­ing to Jewish peo­ple as well as Is­rael/Pales­tine present a chal­lenge to be ad­dressed.

“Fur­ther­more, bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of Jewish stu­dents’ iden­tity with Is­rael, in­clud­ing what Zion­ism means to many Jewish peo­ple, could fos­ter a cul­ture of healthy de­bate and re­spect­ful cam­paign­ing around what are of­ten di­vi­sive is­sues.”

In re­sponse to the find­ings, Josh Nagli, UJS cam­paigns direc­tor who was a mem­ber of the project’s steer­ing group, said: “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.” Mr Nagli said the NUS had to work “to re­build trust with Jewish stu­dents and, along with stu­dents’ unions and higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions, aim to fully un­der­stand

NUS pres­i­dent Malia Bouat­tia Jewish stu­dents’ needs; we hope this report will act as a cat­a­lyst for this to hap­pen.”

Ex­plain­ing why the sur­vey was com­mis­sioned, Rob­bie Young, NUS vi­cepres­i­dent for so­ci­ety and cit­i­zen­ship, said: “The re­search aims to im­prove our knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence of the Jewish stu­dent ex­pe­ri­ence, to help our un­der­stand­ing.”

But, af­ter view­ing the re­sults, he ac­knowl­edged that de­spite “his­tor­i­cally good re­la­tions with and rep­re­sen­ta­tion from Jewish stu­dents, this re­search in­di­cates a sig­nif­i­cant lack of trust at present.”

The sur­vey also found that for 42 per cent of stu­dents, there was no kosher food on or near cam­pus.

Fifty-nine per cent dis­agreed or strongly dis­agreed that their univer­sity avoided sched­ul­ing classes and ex­ams on Shab­bat and dur­ing Jewish fes­ti­vals.

The report said: “NUS have long ad­vo­cated for bet­ter pro­vi­sion for stu­dents of faith and be­lief on cam­pus in­clud­ing food pro­vi­sion, ad­e­quate prayer space and suit­able time-tabling.”

The sur­vey comes amid strained re­la­tions be­tween Jewish stu­dent groups and the NUS fol­low­ing last year’s elec­tion of Malia Bouat­tia as NUS pres­i­dent.

She was heav­ily crit­i­cised for mak­ing ref­er­ences to the “Zion­is­tled me­dia” and Birm­ing­ham Univer­sity, which has a large Jewish stu­dent pop­u­la­tion as a “Zion­ist out­post.”

She later blamed “clumsy lan­guage” and pledged that she would not make such re­marks again.

In a tweet, she de­scribed the sur­vey as “im­por­tant re­search”.

65%

Per­cent­age of Jewish stu­dents who be­lieve the NUS does not re­spond ap­pro­pri­ately to an­ti­semitism claims

42%

Jewish stu­dents un­com­fort­able over at­tend­ing NUS events

Dis­com­fort­ing: a mock Is­raeli check­point set up at Cam­bridge Univer­sity dur­ing last year’s Is­rael Apartheid Week

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