NUS Black Students’ Conference criticised for passing motion to abolish ‘sexist and racist’ prisons

Justifying the decision, students argue that 'prison does not work'

Aftab Ali
Student Editor
Tuesday 31 May 2016 13:22 BST

The influential black students’ group with the National Union of Students (NUS) has drawn criticism after calling for the abolition of prisons, deeming them “sexist and racist.”

The politically autonomous NUS campaign met in Bradford on 28 and 29 May for its annual conference to debate, discuss, and set out policy for equality in education and black representation for the academic year ahead.

Submitted by the University of Bradford Union of Students, the motion entitled ‘Prisons are Obsolete! Abolish Them Now!’ passed and resolved to “call for the abolition of the prison-industrial complex.”

Justifying the decision, the motion believed “prison does not work,” and stated how almost 60 per cent of prisoners re-offend in less than 12 months. It added: “53 per cent of women in prison are survivors of sexual violence, and trans* people are regularly incarcerated in the wrong gendered prison and/or denied hormone therapy.”

The public took to social media to criticise the black students’ group for its “stupid” decision, with many referring to it as a “joke.”

When the NUS group posted its decision on Twitter, one user even asked: “Is this a parody account?”

The NUS has yet to respond to the Independent’s request for comment on the motion’s outcome and criticism received.

The black students’ campaign is currently headed by Malia Bouattia - the controversial new National President of the NUS who is due to begin her post on 1 July - who made the opening address at the conference.

In her remarks, she said: “When justice becomes law, resistance becomes duty. We have changed the face of the student movement and upset the status quo.”

The group - which says it advocates anti-racism, anti-fascism, and international peace and justice - passed another motion, vowing to expand its campaign against the Government’s controversial Prevent agenda in further education institutions, calling it “racist.”

The group noted that the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association described responses from civil society “as being ‘overwhelmingly negative’ towards Prevent and likened it to ‘Big Brother’.”

Ms Bouattia, 28, was chosen to lead the NUS at the campaigner’s National Conference in Brighton in April after becoming embroiled in allegations of anti-Semitism which saw the heads of around 50 Jewish student societies and campaigners issue her with an open letter.

The letter’s signatories asked her to justify comments she made in a 2011 article in which she referred to the University of Birmingham as being “something of a Zionist outpost in British higher education.” The letter asked her: “Why do you see a large Jewish society as a problem?”

Malia Bouattia interview

Ms Bouattia, however, has strongly denied all allegations and, in an interview with Channel 4 News, defended her decision to delay a motion condemning Isis in 2014. She said she will always be branded “an Isis sympathiser” because she is a Muslim woman in a position of power.

Since her election, students’ union (SUs) across the UK have launched campaigns to disaffiliate from the NUS amid concerns of ‘disillusionment’.

So far, the SUs at Lincoln, Newcastle, and Hull have voted to officially break away, while Exeter, Warwick, Surrey, and Cambridge have all voted to remain affiliated. The SU at Loughborough has said the decision on whether it will remain affiliated to the NUS will be referred to its board of trustees.

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