This statement is an update on the UCL Council discussion, which took place on Friday (24 March), on the Academic Board Working Group’s ’Definition of Antisemitism’ report.
In November 2019, UCL adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. Since then, the university has developed an action plan to tackle antisemitism on campus.
It has undertaken work to better understand the types of antisemitism that Jewish students and staff are experiencing, and initiated a comprehensive programme of work to tackle antisemitism in our community. This work was greatly assisted by the participation of several key community groups. A dedicated Antisemitism Programme Manager role has been created to support this work.
In February 2021, the Academic Board of UCL expressed concerns about the impact of the IHRA definition on academic freedom and commissioned a Working Group to propose an alternative definition for recommendation to Council. (The Academic Board represents the academic community of the university and has authority to give advice to Council, its governing body).
In February this year, the Academic Board approved a report from the Working Group which recommended to Council that UCL retain its official recognition of the IHRA definition, but supplement it with the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism, the Nexus Document definition and the Helen Fein definition. It recommended that all the definitions should be used for educative purposes, as has always been the case with the IHRA definition.
In receiving this report last Friday 24 March, Council thanked the Working Group for its extensive work and noted the concerns of the Academic Board about the IHRA definition, particularly in relation to academic freedom.
During the meeting, Council also heard from the UCL Jewish Society which expressed concerns that the basket of definitions proposed in the Academic Board Working Group report would dilute the university’s capacity to tackle antisemitism effectively on campus.
Council agreed not to vote on whether to accept the report, because further engagement on the impact of recognising a basket of definitions was required. This means that IHRA remains the only officially recognised definition of antisemitism at UCL.
To continue to move this important question forward, UCL will now begin a process to consider the practical implications of recognising additional definitions alongside IHRA, and whether doing so would impinge on the fight against antisemitism.
UCL will continue to prioritise opposing antisemitism on our campus, including embedding a programme of training and education about antisemitism for our whole community. We treat hostile behaviour, discrimination and abuse of any kind with the utmost seriousness and will take action against any antisemitism through our disciplinary processes.
We encourage anyone who experiences antisemitism or any other form of racism or discrimination to share their experiences, and people can do this by using our Report + Support online tool , which is open to students and staff who wish to raise concerns, or through our helplines. Any testimonies are extremely valuable in helping us take appropriate action, with the aim of making UCL an inclusive and safe place to work and study for our whole community.
All students and staff that may need it can access confidential, emotional support, free counselling, advice, and information through UCL’s 24/7 Student Support Line (for students) and Employee Assistance Programme: Staff Support Service (for staff).
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