NUS President promises independent investigation into allegations of institutional racism
The President of the NUS, Megan Dunn, has requested a review of the organisation following recent allegations of institutional racism. According to Dunn, the allegations were made by the Black Students’ Officer, Malia Bouattia, at an NUS Executive Committee meeting in July.
“Any allegation of racism is a serious one, and I am proud to lead an organisation that takes seriously our duty to investigate this thoroughly and openly,” said Dunn. “Part of our stated intention as an organisation is to challenge racism in all its forms, and so this review will run alongside our existing work striving for excellence in all areas of equality and diversity.”
Bouattia is a representative for the largest group of black students in Europe. This includes students of African, Arab, Asian and Caribbean origin. In an interview with Black Ballad in August 2015, Bouattia was asked if racism is a problem in the student community.
She responded: “The education system definitely isn’t insulated from the racism of wider society… more often than not it is guilty of perpetuating and reproducing racism.
“It’s ingrained within the system, and this is reflected in structure, from the marginalisation of Black students and academics within many institutions, down to the way course content excludes or minimises the contributions of black people in all fields of study.”
Dunn, NUS President since April 2015, has requested an independent review into the organisation and according to Simon Blake, the organisation’s Chief Executive, the reassessment is thought to be completed by January 2016 and will be conducted by an external agency.
In his letter to staff, Blake said the investigators will analyse whether racism exists in the “culture, systems, policies, processes and structures and make recommendations about any changes we can make to ensure we fulfil our commitment to being an organisation that is truly fair, open, accessible and representative of all.”
This is not the first time a figure in the NUS has criticised racial diversity in education. Last August, Sorana Vieru, Vice-President (Higher Education), voiced her concerns about the structure of university assessment methods which continuously lead to the underperformance of students from less privileged backgrounds. Vieru mentions the “white, male and stale” university environment as one of the underlying issues the NUS has yet to tackle.
Further comments were made by Shelly Asquith, the Vice-President (Welfare) via Twitter: “The student movement & its institutions are institutionally racist. People need to properly accept that before we can begin to overcome it.”
Even though the NUS is viewed as a long-standing and persistent critic of racial discrimination, this is not the first time that the organization has been met with allegations of institutional racism. Back in 2008 black students reported incidents of racism at various Students’ Union events, including a NUS training event, in which a Students’ Union officer allegedly carried a poster reading “Bring back slavery!” as a joke.
The Black Students’ Officer at that time, Bellavia Ribeirio-Addy, was already adamant on taking a more decisive stand against racism in 2008 and encouraged black students to report any racist comments made by NUS officers. Following the incidents, he said: “It is unacceptable that black students should have to put up with blatant racist stereotypes at NUS events.”