Israeli student wins university apology over bias complaint

By Marcus Dysch, August 29, 2013
Smadar Bakovic

Smadar Bakovic

An Israeli woman has won the right to compensation and an apology from a university which allowed an anti-Zionist lecturer to oversee her master’s dissertation.

Smadar Bakovic had repeatedly told Warwick University that she was unhappy with Nicola Pratt marking her dissertation on Israeli Arab identity.

Independent investigators have ruled that her complaint was partly justified and recommended that the university apologise and pay her £1,000.

The former international relations student said she was “delighted” by the “victory for myself, for Israelis and for all other people who have been discriminated against because of their nationality. It shows that we can’t be kicked around and that we don’t give up just because things get tough and messy.”

Ms Bakovic, from Harei Yehuda, near Jerusalem finished her degree two years ago. In December 2011, the university agreed to re-mark her dissertation and awarded her a distinction, with a score 11 points higher than when it was first marked by Professor Pratt.

But Ms Bakovic took the case to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator and complained that Professor Pratt’s supervision was “biased and discriminatory”.

She said she wanted the university to ensure that, in future, academic staff clearly separate their academic work from “personal political activism”.

Professor Pratt is an anti-Israel campaigner who was refused entry to the West Bank by Israeli authorities in 2009. She was one of more than 100 academics who wrote to the Guardian following Operation Cast Lead saying “Israel must lose” and calling for the UK to implement a boycott.

The OIA did not investigate Prof Pratt’s conduct but looked at whether the university acted correctly in its handling of the case. The investigation found the higher mark ultimately awarded to the student was not “in itself evidence of biased marking of the original submission”.

Although the investigation found that the university had handled the complaints appropriately, it was likely that Ms Bakovic “would have been caused some distress and inconvenience by her experience”.

A Warwick University spokesman said the OIA investigation had “rejected almost the entirety of the complaint, in particular the allegations of bias”.

Last updated: 6:45pm, August 29 2013