Image: Warwick Media Library

Warwick vice-chancellor criticised in Parliament for not adopting IHRA’s definition of anti-Semitism

The University of Warwick’s vice-chancellor Stuart Croft has been criticised in Parliament for not adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)’s definition of anti-Semitism.

The Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, Andrew Percy MP, spoke in the House of Commons on 23 January, stressing the importance of “signing up to the IHRA definition” and said “this applies to universities as well where we have a big problem with anti-Semitism on campuses”.

He asked whether “universities like Warwick, whose vice-chancellor is refusing to sign up to the IHRA definition which absolutely deals with the Israelification of anti-Semitism”, will be condemned.

Angus Taylor, the president of Warwick Jewish Israeli Society (JISoc) first wrote to the the vice-chancellor on 17 May 2019, after Universities Minister Chris Skidmore advised universities to adopt the IHRA’s definition of anti-Semitism, which the Students’ Union (SU) undertook in 2016.

In response to a letter delivered by Mr Taylor on 6 January, Professor Croft explained that the definition did not have “any added value” and to “formally adopt individual definitions of specific forms of discriminatory behaviour” would “inevitably lead to the adoption of a whole series of such definitions”.

“We at Warwick have taken considerable time to consult with our staff, students and other to develop,” he continued.

“As a university, we stand with our Jewish students and staff in the interests of freedom of speech.

This applies to universities as well where we have a big problem with anti-Semitism on campuses

– Andrew Percy MP

“We will be mindful of the IHRA definition of 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.”

The letter was supported by the University’s Jewish Chaplain Rabbi Fishel Cohen.

Mr Taylor described the vice-chancellor’s decision as a “shameful abdication of its responsibilities towards Jewish students”.

Warwick Students’ Union (SU) also released a statement, signed by all of the full-time student officers, stating that the SU “has lobbied the University over the past year to adopt” the definition and “will continue to lobby for this”.

“Until specific definitions of racial discrimination are adopted, students will continue to have little faith in a process where certain forms of misconduct are seen as more ‘important’ than others.

“The University must therefore now commit to listening to students with lived experiences of these issues and work with them to adopt definitions and processes that are appropriate to those experiences to ensure they are safe here,” the statement read.

Following Mr Percy’s speech in the House of Commons, JISoc said in a press release: “We call on the University to heed the Government’s advice and adopt the IHRA Definition without delay.

Mr Taylor commented to The Boar “that Professor Croft’s decision not to adopt IHRA has made it to the House of Commons is a damning indictment of our University”.

“Enough is enough. The University should finally listen to Jewish students and adopt the definition without delay.”

Asked about Mr Percy’s speech, the University 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.”

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