MP condemns ‘disgraceful’ move by Warwick University staff to challenge IHRA

Jonathan Gullis accused Warwick University academics of seeking to ‘provoke Jewish students and prolong their suffering’


Conservative MP Jonathan Gullis has written to Warwick University after academics voted to challenge the IHRA definition of antisemitism. 

At a meeting last month, the main body representing university staff, the Warwick Assembly, passed a motion calling for the institution to suspend its use of IHRA by a 93 per cent majority.

The motion stipulated the university should form a working group that would be responsible for recommending how all forms of racism, including antisemitism, should be handled. 

It also said that IHRA should not be consulted until the working group reports back to the university on its use by the end of the year. 

In a letter addressed to Warwick University vice chancellor and president, Professor Stuart Croft, Mr Gullis described the move as “disgraceful”. 

The MP for Stoke-on-Trent North said: “I am… appalled that instead of welcoming the university’s adoption of the IHRA definition as a step in the right direction, Warwick University academics have sought to provoke Jewish students and prolong their suffering.

“Why does the University of Warwick consider it acceptable for academic staff to lecture Jewish students on what does or does not constitute prejudice and discrimination against them?”

Mr Gullis’ letter also specifically asks Professor Croft to condemn the motion, “which undermines (his) commitment to protect Jewish students”. 

Warwick officially adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism in October 2020 following a furore over a lecturer who said allegations of Jew-hate within the Labour Party were pushed by the “Israel lobby”.  

The Union of Jewish Students and Warwick University Jewish Society have strongly condemned the attempt by academics to redefine antisemitism. 

In a jointly issued statement, the organisations said: “UJS and Warwick Jewish Society are frustrated and angered by the Warwick University Assembly for passing a motion to challenge the IHRA working definition of antisemitism. 

“How can they claim they want to fulfil their moral duty to protect all members, which includes Jewish students, when this motion clearly disregards the wants and needs of Jewish students? 

“Over 100 higher education institutions, all major UK political parties and 35+ countries have adopted the definition, and we urge the University of Warwick to reaffirm its adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism including its use in disciplinary processes and finally fulfil its duty of care.” 

A spokesperson for the University of Warwick said: "We actively support academic freedom and freedom of speech - they are vital components of who we are and what we represent. That is why we respect the rights of the Assembly (and all University staff) to freely discuss and debate a wide range of issues. This includes putting forward proposals during meetings, which are then voted on by those members who are present.

"The Assembly is not a decision making body but it is empowered to make proposals to the University governing bodies, the Senate and Council. Motions are not binding. 

"Antisemitism is abhorrent and runs contrary to everything we stand for as a University. We remain fully committed to using the IHRA definition of antisemitism, alongside other definitions, in any disciplinary process and when considering any complaint or allegation of antisemitism. Nothing has changed in terms of our approach."

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