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14th May 2024

Students’ Union will not adopt a BDS policy despite vote in favour

The motion, voted for by students in December 2023, passed with 89.6% of students voting in favour and would have resulted in the Students’ Union adopting BDS policy
Students’ Union will not adopt a BDS policy despite vote in favour
Credit: UMSU website

The Students’ Union have announced that they cannot adopt the policy of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against the state of Israel, despite an overwhelming vote from students in favour of the motion.

A statement released by the Students’ Union on May 8 announced that, despite the officer team “personally believ[ing] in BDS as an effective form of protest […] legally [their] hands are tied.”

“For this,” the statement reads, “we are deeply apologetic and we stand with you.”

The SUggestion was put up for student vote in December 2023 after being put before the Union Assembly.

The vote was on the question “Should the SU (Students’ Union) boycott and divest from Israel?” 89.6% of students voted in favour of the motion.

In total, 4626 students took part in the vote. 4,144 students voted in favour, 402 against, and 80 students abstained.

The motion sought to ban the Students’ Union from procuring food, equipment or services, investing in, or agreeing any contracts or partnerships with companies on the BDS list.

The other motion put forward in December to oppose the Minimum Service Levels Act passed with an 85% majority. 717 students took part in this vote.

The statement on the BDS policy outlines that the Students’ Union has sought legal advice since January. The trustee board discussed this advice on April 2.

The Union has also been in conversation with students groups who are affected by this issue.

The statement emphasises the legal obligations of the Students’ Union: “As outlined in charity law, the students’ union can solely advocate and intervene on matters directly relevant to students as students.”

The statement sets out the responsibility of the Students’ Union to “facilitate debates amongst students on political issues.”

However, under the Charities Act, the Students’ Union is “legally unable to boycott or divest from the companies mentioned in this policy. This is because to do so would be exceeding the charitable purposes of the Students’ Union that are outlined in charity law.”

While the Students’ Union “cannot advocate for issues outside its charitable scope,” the statement also makes clear that the Union “cannot push for the university to implement the same measures.”

The statement also outlined that the Students’ Union “recognise that [their] democratic processes are not adequately designed for students to have its full confidence in the Students’ Union.” It notes that the Students’ Union should have sought legal advice before the motion was put before the Union Assembly.

In response, the Students’ Union is aiming to ringfence £100,000 of funding to enable more civic engagement and political education opportunities.

On May 8, Manchester Leftist Action (MLA) put out an Instagram post criticising the Students’ Union. Currently, the group are involved with the encampment of Brunswick Park.

In the post, MLA said “the Manchester camp of resistance for Palestine has formed where the SU has failed. Heeding the call of the vast majority of UoM students, it will fight against all odds for the University’s full divestment from Israel’s war crimes.”

Since, on May 14, a banner stating “UoM denies” has been erected outside of the Students’ Union.

Poster put up outside the SU on May 14
Credit: Alexandra Baynes @ The Mancunion

Read the Students’ Union’s full statement and answered questions here.

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