UCL’s Jewish Society president has attacked the ‘shameful and disgusting’ decision by the university’s students’ union to hold a vote on antisemitism on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day without, he claims, input from his organisation.
Samuel Goldstone, 20, said he learned on January 26th that the union was preparing to vote on a proposal by Students for Justice in Palestine to reject the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism adopted by UCL in November 2019.
The proposal also called for the union to “adhere to the conclusions of the Report of the Academic Board Working Group on Racism and Prejudice to the furthest extent possible, namely to fully retract the IHRA Definition while adopting new measures regarding preventing discrimination.”
Mr Goldstone claimed he found out about the potential vote about 45 minutes before it started and scrambled to get access to the virtual meeting while he prepared HMD events.
The history student said: “I thought it was absolutely shameful and disgusting that they decided to hold it at that time, and also that they hadn’t invited one member of the JSoc or one Jewish student to speak on a discussion about antisemitism.”
Mr Goldstone lobbied for the vote to be postponed by a week, allowing members of both organisations to speak ahead of a ballot held on February 3. The proposal was rejected, with 32 per cent in favour, 45 per cent against and 23 per cent abstaining.
He was adamant that the Academic Board Working Group report was unacceptable and “doesn’t represent Jewish students at UCL or our interests.”
The December 2020 document called for the UCL Council “to retract the adoption of the IHRA working definition and consider more coherent alternatives” and claimed “that this specific working definition is not fit for purpose within a university setting and has no legal basis for enforcement.”
A UCL spokesperson said: “UCL has fully adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Association working definition of antisemitism, with two additional caveats recommended by the Home Affairs Select Committee in 2016.
“By adopting the IHRA, UCL has sent a strong message to Jewish students and staff, and the wider Jewish community, that it takes antisemitism seriously and is committed to tackling it.
“The university recognises the community’s right to define its own experience of racism, and that we are their allies in fighting it.
“Council will continue to consult and listen to the views of the entire UCL community on this and other issues. But UCL’s position on the adoption of the IHRA is ultimately a matter for Council which has made a clear decision on this issue.”
An Academic Board meeting and vote about the report’s findings is believed to be set for February 10.
The JC has contacted the students’ union for comment.