In December 2019, shortly after UCL adopted the Definition to send a message of solidarity with its Jewish students, the Academic Board established a “Working Group on Racism and Prejudice” to “examines the efficacy” of the Definition. The Working Group published a scandalous report in December 2020, observing that “incidents of antisemitism have persisted in our university” but nonetheless recommending a retraction of the Definition. It has also been alleged that evidence was taken from the President of UCL’s Jewish Society but was largely ignored in the report.
Last month, shortly after the report was published, UCL’s Students’ Union intended to hold a vote on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day on whether to call for a retraction of the Definition. According to the Jewish Society, it was reportedly informed of the vote only 45 minutes in advance. Nevertheless, the Students’ Union was persuaded to delay the vote on calling for retraction. That vote took place last week and failed.
Today, the Academic Board held its own vote on whether to call for revocation of the Definition, and it has voted to call on the University to “retract and replace” the Definition with other (as yet unspecified) tools.
The University and College Union (UCU) branch President, Sean Wallis, said in a statement: “This is an important moment. Whilst there are many other positive concrete steps advised by the Working Group, it is very important that the Academic Board concluded that universities must be vigilant in defending academic freedom and free speech where political debates about Israel are involved. Today the Academic Board has resoundingly reinforced this position at UCL.”
In December 2020, the UCU branch of King’s College London also passed a motion calling on the University to revoke its adoption. Given UCU’s long history of controversy in relation to antisemitism, at the time Campaign Against Antisemitism said that UCU’s “reputation in the Jewish community is in the gutter”.
Campaign Against Antisemitism shall be writing to the Provost of UCL, calling on him to remain firm in his commitment to Jewish students.
Binyomin Gilbert, Programme Manager at CAA said: “UCU’s apparent effort to undermine the commitment of British universities to their Jewish students by calling for retraction of the International Definition of Antisemitism continues apace with this latest scandalous vote at UCL. When KCL passed a similar motion late last year, we said that UCU’s reputation in the Jewish community is in the gutter. Evidently, UCU is intent on remaining there. Fortunately, today’s vote is merely advisory, and we shall be writing to the Provost of UCL to ensure that wiser heads prevail.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism monitors the adoption of the International Definition of Antisemitism by universities.
If any students are concerned about antisemitism on campus or need assistance, they can call us on 0330 822 0321, or e-mail [email protected].