Professor Stuart Croft, Warwick’s vice-chancellor, has said that the University will not adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)’s definition of anti-Semitism.
He explained that the definition did not have “any added value” in his response to a letter delivered by Angus Taylor, the president of Warwick Jewish Israeli Society (JISoc), on 6 January. The letter was supported by the University’s Jewish Chaplain Rabbi Fishel Cohen.
Speaking to The Boar, Mr Taylor said: “Antisemitism is a unique form of racial prejudice, it manifests in a highly distinct way and has been the cause of thousands of years of discrimination against Jews.
“The ‘value’ of the IHRA definition is that it acknowledges this distinctiveness and provides a number of contemporary examples that elucidate this.”
Writing back to Mr Taylor’s letter on 9 January, the vice-chancellor stated that to “formally adopt individual definitions of specific forms of discriminatory behaviour” would “inevitably lead to the adoption of a whole series of such definitions”.
He also referred to new principles surrounding student ethics and behaviour that were introduced at the start of academic year after the group chat case emerged.
Quoting the principles “we treat everyone with respect” and “we do not tolerate discrimination”, the vice-chancellor said: “We at Warwick have taken considerable time to consult with our staff, students and other to develop.”
Instead of heeding the Government’s advice and adopting the internationally-recognised definition, they have instead invented their own pseudo-definition with no consultation from Jewish students at Warwick
– Angus Taylor
He continued: “As a university, we stand with our Jewish students and staff in the interests of freedom of speech.
“We will be mindful of the IHRA definition fo Anti-Semitism, the APPG definition of Islamophobia and other specific definitions of hate crime as the emerge and how they may help inform future policy development.”
Mr Taylor described the vice-chancellor’s decision as a “shameful abdication of its responsibilities towards Jewish students”.
He first wrote to the professor on 17 May 2019, after former Universities Minister Chris Skidmore advised universities to adopt the IHRA’s definition of anti-Semitism, which the Students’ Union (SU) undertook in 2016. SU President Ben Newsham also committed to lobbying for the University to do the same in his manifesto.
“Instead of heeding the Government’s advice and adopting the internationally-recognised definition, they have instead invented their own pseudo-definition with no consultation from Jewish students at Warwick,” the JISoc president said.
“We are deeply disappointed with this decision and call on the University to reverse it without delay.”
JISoc added on Facebook that the University “is suggesting that antisemitism is not worthy of its own definition”.
The University of Warwick told The Boar: “While we have nothing to add at this time to the contents of that letter it should be noted that the Vice-Chancellor has offered to continue the dialogue in person with Angus, other students, and with Rabbi Fishel Cohen.
“The vice-chancellor’s office has offered suggested dates to them all (via Rabbi Fishel Cohen) for such a meeting and is awaiting confirmation from them of a date that works for everyone.”