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.
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.
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.
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’?