University of Essex response to antisemitism ‘should serve as guide’, UJS says

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University of Essex response to antisemitism ‘should serve as guide’, UJS says

The Union of Jewish Students has praised a report by the university on ways to stamp out Jew-hate on campus

Students' Union, University of Essex, Colchester Campus
Students' Union, University of Essex, Colchester Campus

The Union of Jewish Students has praised a report by the University of Essex setting out 33 ways to stamp out Jew-hate on campus.

The detailed report, released today, comes after the university hit headlines in February over opposition from hundreds of students to the creation of a Jewish society on campus and the discovery of antisemitic social media posts by a staff-member.

Many of the recommendations, which cover areas such as complaints procedures, kosher provision and staff training, have been put in place while others are being implemented over the summer.

Simon Johnson from the Jewish Leadership Council and Mark Gardner from the Community Security Trust were among a group of independent advisers to approve the report.

They said they were “pleased” to have been involved, adding: “The university responded rapidly to the allegations of discrimination against Jewish students caused by the vote against establishing a Jewish society.

“It quickly removed the discrimination, held events in solidarity, commissioned this report, ensured that evidence was collected and considered, and that this report was independently scrutinised.”

The report was produced with testimony from 85 students and members of staff. While some did not report having been subjected to antisemitic abuse, a former student said they had suffered “one of my worst experiences of aggression and intimidation for being Jewish and defending my national affinity to Israel.”

“Although I had a wonderful time at Essex,” the alumnus said, “I felt a sense of relief and security when I returned back to my community in North London.”

University chancellor John Bercow praised the university’s response to antisemitism claims, saying: “The report shows a real understanding of what has upset students and detracted from their Essex experience.”

“The university has always taken pride in being multiracial, internationalist and a champion of equality. It is now redoubling its efforts to promote those values by following-up its immediate response with further steps to encourage a culture of respect for all faiths,” he added.

Daniel Kosky, campaigns organiser at the Union of Jewish Students, thanked the University of Essex for its efforts in combating antisemitism and said the findings cover issues faced by Jewish students nationally.

“The recommendations made in the report are exemplary and cover basic steps universities should be taking to make sure their Jewish students feel welcome on campus. Many of these recommendations should be rolled out sector wide and we call on other universities to learn from this report and look to adopt them,” he said.

“The commissioning of this report, along with actions taken by the University of Essex since February should serve as a guide to others as the appropriate response to concerns raised about antisemitism.”

Measures adopted by the university to eradicate antisemitism include the provision of a location for the J-Soc to prepare kosher food for shabbat meals and new social media guidance for staff.

It has also adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism and its working examples.

You can read the report in full online.

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