Battling Anti-Semitism on Campus

The Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) of student complaints has reprimanded Sheffield Hallam University for not treating with appropriate seriousness a Jewish student’s complaint about the Palestine Society’s social media posts. Instead of investigating it themselves, the university referred the complaint to the student union, which did not even produce a written report.

Part of Sheffield Hallam University (from its website)Part of Sheffield Hallam University.

The OIA found that the university `failed to properly turn its mind to the question of whether [the student] had experienced harassment as a result of certain aspects of PalSoc’s social media activity.` Consequently, the OIA has urged the university to pay the student £3,000 in compensation for both the complaint itself and the delay in responding to it.

This outcome follows another case, in June this year, when a Jewish law student was granted a public apology and £1,000 from the student union of the University of York for anti-Semitic abuse. That payment is thought to be the first of its kind for a British university.

Zachary Confino said he was subject to abuse over two years from fellow students, and that the university did not intervene to help. He said he suffered from about 20 such incidents during each of his second and third years of law school.

Both incidents reflect the concern expressed in February this year, that anti-Semitism is a major problem in UK universities. A row over anti-Semitism within the Oxford University Labour Club intensified to the point where the Labour Party announced an investigation, in response to claims that the problem affects campuses across the country. 

Thus it was not surprising that in October Jewish students welcomed a Universities UK report on combating campus anti-Semitism. The report said that university bosses should work more closely with Jewish community leaders in order to `better understand anti-Semitism`.

The report also said that it was `essential` for universities to do more to understand why anti-Jewish episodes should be taken seriously, as well as improving ways to report attacks and track trends. Staff should have specialist training on `issues and sensitivities` around hatred of Jews.