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Sheffield rapped after union dismisses hate complaint

    Sheffield Hallam University has been advised to pay a former student £3,000 in compensation for failing to deal adequately with his complaints of harassment on campus.

    The student, who did not wish to be named, made a complaint to the university in 2014 about posts on the Palestine Society's social media accounts.

    "I started to see Jewish caricatures on Twitter, as well as claims that Israel was an apartheid state and references to blood libel," he said. "I knew this kind of vitriol was out there, but I had never seen anything like it before."

    The student, who is disabled, said he felt "vulnerable. Any time I tried to be open by wearing a Magen David or a kippah, I felt people were giving me dirty looks or trying to block my wheelchair".

    The university referred his concerns to the student union, which dismissed the complaint. The student, who is converting to Judaism, sought advice from the university’s Jewish chaplain, Lesley Klaff, a leading academic on ELAPSA. They then contacted David Lewis, a retired lawyer who runs ELAPSA, a non-profit organisation challenging antisemitism in the public sector. It took the complaint to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education, a body that decides on cases and makes recommendations to universities.

    The OIA criticised Sheffield Hallam for failing to engage with the student's concerns and for failing to take the necessary steps; it also found fault with the university for passing the complaint on to its student union, which did not treat it formally and did not produce a written report. It recommended the university offer £3,000 compensation.

    The student, who left Sheffield in 2015, said he hoped the outcome would prevent others being targeted. "The system exists to deal with these issues; if they are not brought to light, they can't be dealt with."

    A university spokesman said it would not comment on individual cases.

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