Government cuts ties with NUS over allegations of ‘anti-Semitism’

Government cuts ties with NUS over allegations of'anti-Semitic rot at heart'

The government said the decision to cut ties with the NUS was “not taken lightly” (Image: REX/EPA).

The government will suspend all cooperation with the National Union of Students amid anti-Semitism allegations at the heart of the body.

University Minister Michelle Donelan has ordered the NUS removed from all departmental groups at the Department of Education (DfE) and replaced with an alternative student body.

She has also called on the independent bodies of the DfE, such as the Student Secretariat, to take similar measures.

The move to “deny NUS a seat at the table” is unprecedented and comes as the organization celebrates its centenary.

The NUS claims to represent more than seven million students and is affiliated with about 600 student associations.

Last month, the union announced that it was opening up to an independent investigation after a spate of complaints from Jewish students.

The DfE said the investigation must result in “substantive action” and the decision to withdraw from the NUS will be reviewed until “the organization demonstrates that it has adequately addressed these issues”.

Ms Donelan told The Times: “NIS Presidents past, present and future are now facing accusations of anti-Semitism, but none have resigned on the matter – this is evidence of an anti-Semitic rot at the heart of the NIS.”

epa09909505 Britain's Universities Minister Michelle Donelan arrives for a cabinet meeting at Downing Street in London, Britain, April 26, 2022. EPA/NEIL HALL

Michelle Donelan has ordered the NUS removed from all departmental groups at the Department of Education (DfE) (Image: EPA)

She said the decision to cut ties with the NUS “was not taken lightly”.

“I am appalled at the thought of Jewish students feeling ostracized by an organization that is supposed to be a voice for their community and an advocate for equality for all students,” she said.

“We have made it clear that antisemitism must be eradicated from the sector and we take these allegations with the utmost seriousness.”

Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi said he was “seriously concerned” by the number of reports of alleged anti-Semitism related to the NIS.

“Jewish students need to have confidence that this is a body that represents them and we need to be sure that the student unions we work with speak fairly for all students, which is why we are separating from the NUS until the issues are resolved have been addressed,” he said.

‘Following the initial response from the NUS to our concerns, I am confident that they are keen to take action and welcome further updates from them.

“Anti-Semitism has no place in our society and we will eradicate it wherever it occurs.”

In response to the government’s decision, the NUS said it was “disappointed” that the DofE had announced the move in a press release, rather than contacting the union directly.

After beginning its investigation, the NUS said it would appoint a QC next week in consultation with the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) to conduct the investigation.

“We have tried to conduct the investigation seriously and appropriately and are cooperating with UJS at every step,” a spokesman said.

“Once the QC has been appointed, we can keep abreast of the process and timeline.

“We look forward to working constructively with the government on this matter.”

In its press release, the DfE cited a number of incidents that prompted it to act, including the NUS’ “unacceptable response” to concerns about inviting rapper Lowkey to their 2022 conference.

It noted that the rapper had made comments in the past that were “widely considered anti-Semitic.”

The DfE also noted that this was not the first time the NUS had been embroiled in controversies over alleged anti-Semitism.

In 2005, the NUS was subjected to an independent investigation commissioned after the resignation of three Jewish students from the union’s national board.

The inquiry found that the NUS was not guilty of anti-Semitism but criticized the union for being slow to respond to allegations and said it could be more proactive.

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Justin Scacco

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