A new report by the Community Security Trust (CST), has found 123 antisemitic incidents affecting Jewish students, academics and student bodies in 34 different towns and cities across the UK during the past two academic years. These incidents, revealed in a new report Campus Antisemitism in Britain 2018-2020, included antisemitic incidents perpetrated by fellow students, academic staff, students’ union officials and student society officers.
The response of some universities to complaints of antisemitism was found by CST to be inconsistent and, in the worst cases, increased the harm felt by Jewish students. In one example, a Jewish student at the University of Warwick was subjected to a disciplinary complaint by academic staff after he reported that a lecturer had made an antisemitic comment in a lecture. The complaint against the student was later dropped with no action taken.
James Harris, UJS President, said “Amidst rising antisemitism on campus over the last two academic years, it is evident that certain universities have woefully disregarded their duty of care to Jewish students. All students deserve the right to study without the fear of discrimination. Whilst many institutions have equality and anti-racism frameworks, these have proven to be completely inadequate when protecting Jewish students. When antisemitism does arise, Jewish students rightly expect that it will be taken seriously and dealt with effectively. I look forward to the day where this is the case at every single university.”
Thirty-nine university antisemitic incidents recorded by CST during the last two academic years took place on-campus, 33 took place off-campus and 51 were online. CST recorded four instances of Assault across the two academic years in the study; seven in the category of Damage and Desecration to Jewish property; five in the category of Threats; and 107 incidents of Abusive Behaviour.
Fifteen of the 123 university antisemitic incidents in this report were perpetrated by staff, including four at the University of Warwick, two at the University of Leeds and two at the University of Nottingham. Incidents perpetrated by members of staff can often involve a strong power imbalance between victim and perpetrator in which a Jewish student is expected to lodge a complaint against a staff member who is in a position of direct authority over them, or to report concerns to the same institution they are complaining about. Nine university incidents were perpetrated by Students’ Union officers or were related to student society members and events.
The locations where CST recorded five or more university antisemitic incidents in the past two academic years are Coventry (14 incidents, 13 of which took place at the University of Warwick), Birmingham (13), Leeds (11), Nottingham (9), Bristol (7) and Leicester (5). Apart from Coventry and Leicester, these are the locations of the universities with the largest Jewish student populations.
CST found a wide variety of institutional responses to student complaints about antisemitism across different universities, some of which highlight serious flaws in some universities’ complaints procedures and practices. Detailed case studies in CST’s report show examples of good practice from the University of Essex, and poor responses the University of Warwick and the University of Bristol.
Bradley Langer, UJS Campaigns Organiser, has responded to the report by saying “this will not stop Jewish students, it only emboldens them.
“Jewish students do not hide from these challenges but face them head on. In the past two years, Jewish students have held universities and vice-chancellors to account ensuring that they do not sweep antisemitism under the carpet; led campaigns for the adoption of the IHRA definition; held protests outside trustee meetings; won debates inside student unions; organised petitions and made sure they will never be silenced.”
“Together (with CST), we will never rest until antisemitism is eradicated from our society, until all universities are protecting and supporting their Jewish students and that their basic needs, like the supply of kosher food on campus, are being met. The Jewish students and societies I have worked with, across the country, show me that the future is bright. Jewish students will continue to thrive, will continue to succeed, and will always ensure that come Friday night, they can gather together as one community sharing stories over a bowl of chicken soup (or a veggie alternative!).”
CST’s report makes the following recommendations for universities:
- Appropriate definition: Adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism would ensure that there is a common, accepted and practical standard with which to measure antisemitism and assess complaints.
- Third Party Reporting: Universities should allow third party organisations such as CST or the Union of Jewish Students to submit complaints regarding antisemitism on behalf of students. This is common practice in reporting hate crime to Police or other bodies.
- Timescale for complaints: Universities should have an adequate and reasonable time frame in which they respond to and resolve complaints, and should accept complaints from students who have already graduated.
- Evidence gathering: Institutions should put measures in place to obtain the necessary evidence of antisemitism where complaints have been made or are likely to occur. This would include lecture recordings for modules where students claim to have experienced antisemitism, or moderation and recording of events involving problematic speakers.
- Impartiality: Universities should develop an independent process in which complaints of discrimination, bigotry or hateful language are assessed by staff who do not have any personal or professional relationship with the academics or students who are subject to investigation.