Anti-semitism row in Essex University student society vote


University of Essex

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The University of Essex has said it has a zero-tolerance policy to hate and harassment

More than 200 students have voted against forming a Jewish society at a university students union, raising fears of anti-semitism.

The University of Essex union has other religious societies but a vote for the new Jewish society raised objections.

More than 600 people voted on the ratification of the society in total – with about 64% in favour.

The university is also investigating claims a lecturer posted anti-semitic material online opposing the society.

The national Union of Jewish Students (UJS) said it was “shocking” students had voted against the idea of the new society.

A spokesman said: “We are deeply disappointed by the significant proportion of students who have voted against the establishment of a Jewish society at the University of Essex. Jewish societies, of which over 60 exist on UK campuses up and down the country, provide a space for Jewish students to celebrate their culture and identity.

“The fact that some students at the University of Essex deem it fit to vote against that is quite simply shocking.”

‘Posts denying Holocaust’

Recently ratified societies include Pokemon Go and K-Pop.

The UJS also raised concerns about Facebook posts by computer science lecturer Dr Maaruf Ali who had allegedly written “the Zionists next want to create a society here at our university” as well as sharing posts which appeared to deny the Holocaust.

The Colchester-based University of Essex, which has more than 15,000 students in total, said it would not comment on individual cases but had a zero-tolerance policy towards acts of hate or harassment.

A spokeswoman said: “Alongside our commitment to freedom of speech, we also have clear guidelines for student and staff conduct and we have zero tolerance towards harassment or hate crime and will always take appropriate and proportionate action.

“We are looking into the allegations as a matter of urgency in accordance with our zero tolerance policy.”

The case has gained attention from celebrities including Countdown presenter Rachel Riley who tweeted: “The cancer that is anti-semitism is spreading. Shocking discrimination.”

Dr Ali has been approached for comment.

The students proposing the new J-soc group had said it would help Jewish students “have their voice on the campus community”, celebrate Jewish festivals and “create a place to socialise, learn from each other in a peaceful and inclusive atmosphere”.



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