Student Officers Blog

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A Union for All: On the welfare of our Jewish Students

KCLSU is committed to ensuring that every student can engage in the Union and feels empowered to celebrate their identities and make positive change. We've already been in contact with our Jewish Students' Society who have have said that "In light of the recent NUS report, we are happy to see that the students’ union has reiterated its commitment to working collaboratively with Jewish students to ensure a safe and engaging experience for Jews on campus" and who we plan to keep in close communication with about this project. As our safe space policy states, we are committed ‘to providing an inclusive and supportive space for all students’ and it is this commitment to safe space that ensures that we strive to indeed be a Union that not only includes Jewish students but actively engages them.

As your Union President, I would like to make it emphatically clear that I take the welfare of our Jewish students seriously.

After reading the National Union of Students (NUS) report on ‘The experience of Jewish students in 2016-17' and drawing on the personal experience I have had with our Jewish students on campus, I would like to reaffirm that KCLSU is a safe space for all Jewish students and that anti-Semitism, racism and abuse on campus is unacceptable and intolerable.

In terms of hate crime, the report states that the majority of Jewish students surveyed are ‘not very or not at all worried about being subject to verbal abuse, physical attack, vandalism, properly damage or theft because of their Jewish belief’. However, out of those who have experienced hate crime, the majority believed these incidents ‘were motivated by the perpetrator’s prejudice towards them based on their Jewish belief’. Even though this may only be a small number of students, it is still too many. No student should ever feel targeted because of their faith or identity.

Going beyond the NUS report,  the CST (Community Security Trust), a body that records ant-Semitic and racist events, reported that last year it saw a record level of anti-Semitic abuse occurring. In addition to this, the greatest amount of events occurred in London with a 62% rise on the previous year. Even though the report may not be directly about students, this in itself a concern to KCLSU due to the geographical location of the incidents.

It is clear that a statement affirming the importance of Jewish welfare on campus and stamping out ant-Semitism and racism is a start, but is not sufficient to ensure tangible change in our campus community.

NUS have suggested some practical considerations in their report for Students’ Unions, some of which are already resolved in terms of the experience and access for Jewish students to campus and there are some of which need to be further investigated:

  • Representation: As part of work with Jewish student welfare on campus, we need to and will investigate both the issues of participation of Jewish students in our democracy and I will ask that the Union identifies a Union representative contact for Jewish students in our structure. Throughout my time as Union President, I have been the point of contact between the Jewish Society and the Union. As part of my handover, I will ensure to pass this role to one of the newly elected Sabbatical officers.
  • Kosher food: We have some kosher provisions across all of our venues that serve food. If demand for the food is greater than we currently supply we can investigate expanding provision. If a student wishes to know more about the different food options for different dietary requirements please contact us.
  • Kosher accommodation: There is no current provision of kosher accommodation. There are kosher facilities in London that the College could more effectively reference to for specific need. We will engage with our Jewish Society to understand more about the need for kosher accommodation and empower them to work with College on this.
  • Timetabling: We are aware that there are some issues with timetabling on holy days in the Jewish calendar. We will work with the Chaplaincy and our Jewish Society to investigate and mitigate these as well as all religious groups. Being a person of faith should not mean you cannot fully access your academic life and practice your faith.

There is clearly work to do around Jewish welfare on campus, as well as to stamp out hate and bigotry alongside all forms of oppression. The first step in this process of supporting Jewish student welfare is to ensure that every Jewish student understands that the Union is committed to working towards being accessible and liberated. In order to fulfil this commitment, we will work together with our students to become a Union where all are empowered and can participate.

 

Ben Hunt 

KCLSU President 2017/17