The Jewish Chronicle
Praise for university response to hate
THE UNIVERSITY of Essex has been praised for a report on campus antisemitism after hundreds of its students voted in February against the creation of a Jewish society.
The Union of Jewish Students has backed the report, as well as an independent group from the Jewish community which lauded the university’s “rapid and early action”.
The ‘Review of the Experiences of Jewish Students and Staff’, which was produced internally, spoke to 85 Jewish students, alumni, staff and former staff.
While some said that they had not seen any antisemitism on campus, others had, including one alumnus who said they undergone “one of my worst experiences of aggression and intimidation for being Jewish and defending my national affinity to Israel”.
The university hit the headlines in February after the JC revealed that hundreds of students had voted against the creation of a JSoc. Within 48 hours, the university had apologised, cancelled the vote and established a Jewish society on campus with immediate effect.
An academic who had supported the campaign against the formation of the JSoc and who was found to have shared antisemitic and Shoah denial material on social media was suspended from his role and subsequently expelled.
Daniel Kosky, UJS campaigners officer, said: “We commend the University of Essex for accepting the existence of a problem with antisemitism at the university, and focusing efforts on to eliminating it from their campus.”
He said the university’s response “should serve as a guide to others”.
In the review, the university said it had appointed a rabbinical couple, Rabbi Elazar and Alissa Symon, as Jewish chaplains from September 2019, and provided a fixed location and a dedicated heating unit for the JSoc to prepare kosher food for Shabbat meals.
It has also adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism.
The university also appointed an independent group of prominent people in the Jewish community that took testimony from students and staff.
It comprised Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger, Jewish Leadership Council chief executive Simon Johnson, the CST’s Mark Gardner, and Baroness Jan Royall, who was responsible for the report on alleged antisemitism at the Oxford University Labour Club.
The independent group said they were “pleased to have been involved in what we believe to have been an exemplary process. The university responded rapidly to the allegations of discrimination.”
Thumbs up: Kosky