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8th December 2016

Black students in NUS walkout over ‘institutional racism’

Protesting against the ‘institutional racism’ within the Union, NUS Black Students’ Officer Aadam Muuse led a walkout by people of colour at a major annual NUS meeting

A group of Black students have withdrawn from one of the most prominent annual NUS events, the NUS National Executive Committee meeting (NUSNEC), over claims they face “insufferable” racism within the organisation.

NUS Black Students’ Officer, Aadam Muuse, who co-ordinated the strike, said: “After almost a century of institutionally racist practices, exclusionary cultures and structural violence we have reached breaking point.

“Despite the incredible work carried out by our members and volunteers to sustain and progress our movement, the violence that we face in our institutions has become insufferable.”

The University of Manchester Students’ Union’s Diversity Officer, Ilyas Nagdee, tweeted from his personal account @Ilyas_Nagdee: “NEC Members of Colour have just withdrawn their labour and walked out from #NUSNEC due to the horrific insitutional racism they are facing”, adding, “we are failed on our campuses, in our institutions and by the National Union of Students #NUSNEC”.

Students who staged the walkout have asked other members of the NUSNEC to remain, so that the meeting can continue to be held.

Muuse said in a statement posted to his Facebook page: “Racism in NUS plays out in a multitude of ways that we hope the Institutional Racism Review will vindicate our stance [sic].”

The statement also highlights Black students’ demands that the Institutionalised Racism Review (IRR) — which was commissioned a year ago, after being demanded by now-President Malia Bouattia — be published, and that its “recommendations… are taken with utmost seriousness, and that Black and racialised staff, students and officers in our movement are afforded the dignity they deserve”.

Twitter user @Get2Noha, involved in the walkout, explains: “Today I and other students of colour withdrew our labour from the #NUSNEC meeting to mark a year since IRR was demanded & nothing’s changed”.

Muuse added: “The NUS has long functioned off of the labour of Black students — yet this has often remained invisible.

“Whether the physical labour of Black students, who have driven key campaigns yet remained undervalued and undermined as volunteers; or their emotional labour, when we’re expected to support and sustain fellow Black students as they get involved and engage with structures that are persistently hostile to them.”

There are claims that some Black students’ mental health has been affected by the racism within the organisation, as Women’s Officer Hareem Ghani, who was one of those who walked out, says: “Particularly women of colour face the brunt of explicit and structural violence that is both racialised and gendered.

“We sacrifice our mental and physical health while our work in the movement continues to be co-opted, ignored or undervalued. We’ve been forced to take action against an organisation that should be our home, but has ended up damaging our lives.”

Following the walkout, Shelly Asquith, NUS Vice President (Welfare), said: “The right to withdraw labour is fundamental and we fully support Black members’ right to do this. NUS is committed to making change for Black students and addressing the serious problems of all forms of racism in the movement, our union and wider society.”

Asquith later tweeted: “The Institutional Racism Review report will be released on Monday. #nusnec”.

The Mancunion has reached out to the University of Manchester Students’ Union for comment.

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