Shakira Martin, president of the National Union of Students, today released a frank video apology after the NUS released a survey on religious beliefs that omitted Judaism – the second time this has happened in six months.
The survey had 11 options but failed to include the UK’s fifth largest religion. Instead it offered “Buddhist”, “Christian”, “Hindu”, “Muslim”, “Sikh”, “Spiritual”, “Agnostic”, “Atheist”, “Any other religion or belief”, “None” and “Prefer not to say”.
This is the latest in a string of controversies over the relationship of the NUS with its Jewish students, with previous president Malia Bouattia investigated by the Home Affairs Select Committee over past comments that described Birmingham University as a “Zionist outpost”.
Martin defeated Bouattia in last years presidential election in a campaign that often focused on the institutional approach of the NUS to antisemitism. In a video posted on her Twitter account, she expressed anger that this had happened after a similar incident in July.
A message from me to all Jewish Students https://t.co/oDob2AQ7Y5
— Shakira Martin (@ShakiraSweet1) January 5, 2018
“When I said I would stamp out all forms of antisemitism, I wasn’t giving lip service. Actions speak louder than words and I really want to reassure the Jewish community that I will be dealing with this. I am committed to tackling all forms of racism, with antisemitism being my main priority.”
“Trust me – this will not be happening again. People are scared to say sorry. I am sorry, if people feel like they weren’t welcomed or they were pushed out.”
A similar omission was made in a survey released in July, and Martin stated that she will work to avoid another error.
“I totally understand after the years – but especially last year, before my presidency, that Jewish students had – that this type of thing is not acceptable. You will not not see Judaism on an NUS form again. I will be making sure that we will be reviewing all our forms, and that this is on everyone’s form, and that this will not happen again.”
The gap in the survey was highlighted by her former rival Tom Harwood, who unsuccessfuly ran for election as NUS president last year with a platform of “re-legitimatising” the NUS
The NUS sent out a survey asking for people’s religion. They gave a lot of options but forgot one of the biggest religions in the U.K.
You’ll never guess which one. pic.twitter.com/CvfayaHAWk
— Tom Harwood (@tomhfh) January 4, 2018
Harwood commented “This is a deeply disappointing but sadly not all too surprising revelation. It’s clear that the NUS suffers an institutional problem with anti-Semitism that runs far deeper than any individual.”
Martin has worked to repair the NUS’s relationship with the Jewish community, meeting with leaders of the Union of Jewish Students, pledging to “ensure that Jewish students feel safe in our spaces”