Before UCU Congress the Jewish Leadership Council wrote this letter to Sally Hunt, arguing that its repudiation of the EUMC Working Definition of antisemitism would constitute yet another manifestation of the institutional racism which is present within the union in relation to Jews.
Sally Hunt replied, as did Trevor Philips, the Chair of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, who had been copied in.
UCU Congress, with the support of the National Executive Committee of UCU voted overwhelmingly to repudiate the EUMC Working Definition. The reason that the definition was repudiated was that the union wanted to carry on doing things which the definition warned ‘could be’ antisemitic in certain contexts.
Jeremy Newmark, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, said, following Congress: ‘After this weekend’s events, I believe the UCU is institutionally racist.’
The Board of Deputies of British Jews president, Vivian Wineman, also wrote to university vice chancellors asking them to consider whether maintaining a normal relationship with UCU could still be compatible with their requirement to ‘eliminate discrimination and foster good relations’ with minorities.
Engage is a pro-union network and so is highly criticial of this move to help University managements to de-legitimize the union. Of course we are highly critical too, of our unoin, which has a serious and unacknowledged problem of institutional antisemitism.
Sally Hunt has now sent out a letter to all UCU branches. It is an astonishing letter. She says that the union is “implacably opposed” to antisemitism and that it has expressed its “abhorrence” of antisemitism. The letter also says that the union supports the Macpherson principle which says that a person who experiences an incident as a racist incident should, at first anyway, be presumed to be right by an institution which is responsible for investigating. The principle was established in the Macpherson report, which found that the Metropolitan Police in the 1990s had a problem with institutional racism. At that time, everybody understood that the term ‘institutional racism’ did not mean that individual police officers were racist and it didn’t mean that the police failed to ‘abhor’ or to ‘oppose’ racism. What it meant was that there were racist assumptions, practices and norms within the institution which had led to Stephen Lawrence’s murder inquiry being screwed up and to his friend and family being treated apallingly.
In her new letter, Sally Hunt pretends that she doesn’t understand what institutional racism is. She responds to a charge, instead, that the union hates Jews. In this way, she refuses to take the charge of institutional racism seriously.
Sally Hunt’s new letter is here (pdf)
One way of undertanding the charge of institutional antisemitism is by looking at the letters of resignation and other things which have been written by UCU members over the last few years.
In 2009 UCU Congress was asked to mandate the union to investigate these resignations. But Congress said no, it didn’t want an investigation into why people were resigning from the union citing antisemitism as a reason.
Jon Pike, Open University, Resignation from NEC
Michael Yudkin, David Smith and Dennis Noble, Oxford
Shalom Lappin, King’s College, London
Raphaël Lévy, Liverpool University
Jonathan G. Campbell, Bristol University
Colin Meade, London Metropolitan University
Tim Crane, Univesity College London
Dov Stekel, University of Birmingham
Raphaël Lévy, University of Liverpool
Sarah Brown, Anglia Ruskin University
Robert Fine’s account of Congress, Warwick U
Norman Geras, Manchester University
Eva Fromjovic, Leeds University
Lesley Klaff, Sheffield Hallam
Stephen Soskin, Buckinghamshire New University
76 UCU members signed a public protest about UCU’s failure to take seriously the criticism made against it by the Parliamentary Inquiry. Read their protest, published in the Times Higher.
39 UCU members signed a public protest at the UCU’s refusal to meet with Ger Weisskirchen at his request. Weisskirchen is the OSCE’s Chairman-in-Office Representative on antisemitism. The protest, which went unheeded and ignored by the UCU.
After looking at this material, is Sally Hunt still going to pretend that she can’t tell the difference between taking ‘institutional antisemitism’ seriously and mouthing pious words about ‘abhorrence of antisemitism’?
June 10, 2011 at 2:28 pm
You can see how this is going to progress. UCU will concentrate on the EUMC specifics (as in Hunt’s new letter) as if it exists in splendid isolation from everything that went before, and will likely try to construct some more cover such as the January 2010 seminars they had on antisemitism. (https://engageonline.wordpress.com/2010/01/21/jewish-chronicle-report-of-ucu-meeting-on-antisemitism/ – including Tom Hickey’s initimidatory response to David Hirsh).
In fact, its the context that matters (ironic really, given the EUMC definition’s concentration on context), and its the context of UCU’s past treatment of this issue that shows their EUMC decision to be the latest ringing instance of their institutional racism.
June 10, 2011 at 4:14 pm
Context is everything.
June 10, 2011 at 3:24 pm
I invite Sally Hunt to willingly accept a formal Equality and Human Rights Commission investigation into the motivations behind, and consequences of the motion to reject the EUMC working definition of anti-Semitism.
If the UCU as an institution is given a clean bill of health then surely that can only strengthen the Union’s position in the crucial fight against cuts within our sector.
If on the other hand, there is no investigation then that will only strengthen the suspicion held by a number of current and indeed former members of the UCU that there is something to brush under the carpet.
June 10, 2011 at 3:39 pm
[…] article should be read here on Engage. It is premised upon the assertion that UCU’s general secretary, Sally Hunt, “pretends […]
June 10, 2011 at 11:19 pm
Sally Hunt says “In my letter to the Board and Council I pointed out that the UCU’s predecessor unions, AUT and NATFHE, were among the first to endorse the recommendations of the Macpherson Report, particularly its definition of racist incidents and of institutional racism. UCU has carried forward that commitment and I am very happy to take the opportunity to reiterate it now.”
These are not only weasel words but also indicate that she has serious long-term memory problems. A shame in one so young. I can clearly recollect _both_ Natfhe and AUT presenting and passing motions demanding the boycott of Israeli and only Israeli universities before the merger, along with other clearly anti-Israel resolutions.
Far from strengthening her position (other than with the SWP/Broad Left faction), it can only weaken it when the going gets really tough. And I would suggest that Trevor Phillips’ letter suggests that this might happen quite soon.
June 11, 2011 at 1:05 am
Perhaps Sally would care to define the antisemitism to which her union is implacably opposed, particularly with reference to the nexus between prejudice agains Jews and anti-Zionism — or impossibility thereof.
July 2, 2011 at 8:27 am
[…] the rules of disclosure. They will wonder what the emails between Tom Hickey and Matt Waddup and Sally Hunt and Mike Cushman might reveal if they were made available to Ronnie Fraser. They will remember […]