York students refuse to back university statement after raising antisemitism concerns at meeting

By Naomi Firsht, March 11, 2016

Jewish students in York have refused to sign a joint statement with their university over their complaints of antisemitism, as they claim it does not acknowledge the issue properly.

Members of the York University Jewish Society met officials from the university on Monday to discuss their complaints over the performance at York of the play Seven Jewish Children, which has been described as antisemitic.

JSoc member Zachary Confino attended the meeting. He said a draft statement from the university did not mention the play and only spoke about the future without acknowledging the difficulties Jewish students had experienced.

“What they are trying to do is white-wash everything and smooth over their media image,” said the 21-year-old.

“We accepted it would be looking forward but we also thought it would touch on the past because that is what led to this.

“We cannot co-sign it at the moment.”

A second meeting on Thursday with the president of the student union Ben Leatham was also frustrating. Mr Confino said the union refused to take a stance on whether the play was antisemitic or not.

At the meeting, student union officials concluded that they could not take any action until they had spoken to other Jewish students who said they did not find the play antisemitic.

A further meeting has been planned for next term with JSoc members, university officials and the student union.

In a statement, David Duncan, York University's registrar and secretary, confirmed he and university's pro-vice chancellor for learning had met the students.

Dr Duncan said: "The meeting discussed the issue of race hate and antisemitism and began a dialogue about how the University and the Jewish Society can work together to address this very serious matter.

"They agreed to discuss further practical steps aimed at: reassuring students who are concerned about antisemitism, raising awareness about the points of contact students can use to raise specific concerns, ensuring that Jewish staff and students of all nationalities feel welcome at York.

"The University representatives indicated that they were seeking external advice from the Community Security Trust. They would also be meeting with other societies and groups to hear their views and address any concerns they might have.

"The University aims to ensure that anyone who experiences antisemitism or race hate of any kind is aware of the mechanisms in place to report it. We hope that the above steps as well as actions that result from our future work with the Jewish Society and other groups will help to guarantee this."

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Last updated: 12:06pm, March 11 2016