UCL announces action against racism, antisemitism and Islamophobia

As part of its commitment to drive race equality and tackle discrimination, UCL has agreed three key actions that will support its work to raise awareness and understanding of different forms of racism.

Following approval last night by UCL’s governing Council, the university will:

  • Adopt a Statement on Race developed by UCL’s Race Equality Steering Group (see below)
  • Adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Association working definition of antisemitism in full, with two additional caveats recommended by the Home Affairs Select Committee in 2016 (see below)
  • Set up a working group to examine Islamophobia and Muslim student and staff experience and recommend actions and activities, including bringing forward a statement on Islamophobia that is supported by UCL’s Muslim community.

Proposals for these three actions were developed in partnership with UCL’s BAME communities and reflect UCL’s understanding that communities affected by racism are best placed to define their own experience and to take the lead in addressing it.

UCL will continue to consult with its academic community on the use and evolution of statements and definitions that support its equality, diversity and inclusivity strategy. Freedom of speech within the law for all staff, students and visiting speakers is guaranteed by UCL’s Code of Practice on Freedom of Speech, which will not be affected by adoption of the statement and definition.

Welcoming Council’s decision, UCL President & Provost Professor Michael Arthur said:  "UCL was founded to be a place where everyone could find a home regardless of their ethnicity, nationality or faith. Any form of discrimination is absolutely opposed to our values, but unfortunately we know that it exists on our campus. Statements and definitions are not in themselves an answer to the problem of racism, but they are a helpful tool in education and awareness raising about different forms of racism and how they manifest. It’s very important that these actions reflect what the affected communities have asked UCL to do, and I’m delighted that UCL is working with its BAME communities to tackle the scourge of inequality and discrimination. I hope this sends a strong message of solidarity and support."

The development of UCL’s Statement on Race was led by Professor Ijeoma Uchegbu, Professor of Pharmaceutical Nanoscience and UCL Envoy for Race Equality, who says:  "UCL wants to be at the forefront of promoting race equality in the UK higher education sector, and that requires us to explicitly name the challenge we are fighting against. This statement was initiated by Dr Kamna Patel, Associate Professor of the Development Planning Unit and is the result of wide-ranging consultations and explorations across UCL. Its formal adoption by UCL sends a strong, empowering anti-discrimination message to all staff and students."

Lori Houlihan, Vice-Provost (Advancement) and UCL Interfaith Champion, says:  "The intersection of racism and faith-related discrimination is complex and often poorly understood, so education in this area is vital. The partnerships we have developed with UCL’s Jewish and Muslim students to understand their experiences provide an excellent model for tackling faith-based discrimination more widely, and I want to pay tribute to them for engaging with us so proactively and thoughtfully."

Shabeer Ashraff, President of UCL’s Islamic Society, says:  "The Muslim community at UCL welcomes the action to establish a working group tasked with tackling the prevalent issue of discrimination against Muslims on campus. The Islamic Society looks forward to working alongside students and members of staff on this issue. We view this working group to be a significant step towards ensuring that the rights of Muslims on campus are being observed and upheld."

Oliver Kingsley of UCL’s Jewish Society says:  " UCL Jewish Society are incredibly proud to stand side by side with our university following the adoption of IHRA. This is not just a definition, it is a clear message that hatred, intolerance, and racism towards Jewish students on campus is not acceptable, and has no place on our campus. We are also very happy that UCL has agreed to work with UCL Islamic Society to prevent Islamophobia on campus. The message is clear, all forms of racism and intolerance shall not be tolerated at university. Thank you for the support and hard work of those that made the whole thing possible."

The full text of UCL’s Statement on Race is:

"Action for race equality exists because racism exists in our daily lives, our institutions and society at large. Racism in the UK is the exercise of historic power relations that produce discrimination and is ideologically driven. It means students and staff who identify and are identified as part of the white ethnic majority enjoy a position of relative and typically unspoken and unacknowledged privilege over Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students and staff. Racism manifests at work, in student attainment, staff appointments and promotions. Racism must be fought by everyone. This statement names the challenge."

The IHRA working definition of antisemitism is:

 "Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities."
To guide IHRA in its work, the following examples may serve as illustrations: Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic. Antisemitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for "why things go wrong." It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.
Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:

  • Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
  • Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective - such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
  • Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
  • Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
  • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
  • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
  • Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

Antisemitic acts are criminal  when they are so defined by law (for example, denial of the Holocaust or distribution of antisemitic materials in some countries).
Criminal acts are antisemitic when the targets of attacks, whether they are people or property - such as buildings, schools, places of worship and cemeteries - are selected because they are, or are perceived to be, Jewish or linked to Jews.
Antisemitic discrimination is the denial to Jews of opportunities or services available to others and is illegal in many countries.

This has been adopted by UCL with the following caveats, which were recommended by the Home Affairs Select Committee in 2016 :

  • It is not antisemitic to criticise the government of Israel, without additional evidence to suggest antisemitic intent
  • It is not antisemitic to hold the Israeli government to the same standards as other liberal democracies, or to take a particular interest in the Israeli government’s policies or actions, without additional evidence to suggest antisemitic intent

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