There is an all too familiar pattern in academia

The JC Leader, 19 February 2021


University College London, Main Building, London, UK

February 18, 2021 12:30

One would not expect the intricacies of the governance of University College, London to be a subject with which more than a small number of people are familiar. But the decision by UCL’s Academic Council to recommend that the university cancel its adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism has focused widespread attention on this body’s status. UCL adopted the IHRA definition in November 2019. It has worked well there, as everywhere else, giving Jewish students a sense of protection whilst allowing free debate. But a small group of academics — some of whom are, shockingly, employed in UCL’s Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies — has put their fringe ideological obsessions above the needs and demands of Jewish students. The matter now rests, for the moment, with UCL’s Provost.

But this is an all too familiar pattern in academia. Eighteen months ago we reported the contempt with which Bristol University’s Vice-Chancellor, Prof Hugh Brady, was treating its Jewish students by refusing even to engage with them over the behaviour of its notorious lecturer, David Miller. And here we are again. Last weekend, Prof Miller attacked the very existence of Bristol University’s JSoc and the Union of Jewish Students, describing them as “a direct member of the World Zionist Organisation” and which as such had to be “ended”. He went on to tell the JC that Jewish students are “used as political pawns by a violent, racist foreign regime engaged on ethnic cleansing.” This time, the university has said it will speak to the JSoc. But previous inaction suggests it will do nothing about Prof Miller. Bristol University says that “we are steadfast in our commitment to freedom of speech.” But there is no such thing as absolute free speech. When academics move from research and inquiry, however controversial, to what amounts to intimidation, attacking one group of students, a line is crossed. Prof Miller is not an academic in any meaningful sense of the word. He is a propagandist for an ideological fringe who has no place on any campus.

February 18, 2021 12:30

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