University College London (UCL) is being asked to reconsider its adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, after its own academic board this week rejected it.
The vote calls on the university’s governing body to “retract and replace [IHRA] with a more precise definition”, following the publication in December of a critical report by a UCL working group.
Although universities are legally independent and duty-bound to protect free speech, ministers have become increasingly threatening in their calls for institutions to adopt the IHRA definition, which includes 12 working examples, seven of which relate to Israel.
Members of the University and College Union (UCU) supported the academic board’s vote, the union opposing nationally what it calls a “politicised and divisive definition”.
In a joint statement, the UCL Jewish Society (J-Soc) and the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) said they were “disturbed by the decision” but said they were confident it would be symbolic only.
“Jewish student voices will not be silenced, nor dictated to by a small group of academics, who are more interested in theoretical discussion of antisemitism than practically supporting their students.”
Provost Dr Michael Spence is widely expected to reject the academic board vote to retract UCL’s adoption of the IHRA definition, but Jewish student representatives say it may lead to similar action in other universities, including King’s College London.
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