Universities Minister Jo Johnson has emphasised the need for universities to have adequate measures in place to tackle anti-Semitism, underlining that universities have a “legal obligation” to ensure students “do not face discrimination, harassment, abuse or violence”.
The comments made by the Minister were in response to a written Parliamentary question written by Conservative MP Graham Evans. Mr Evans had asked what was being done “to tackle anti-Semitism and holocaust denial on university campuses”.
The Minister began by reiterating the Government’s commitment to challenging anti-Semitism in society, asserting that “this Government takes anti-Semitism extremely seriously”. Minister Johnson referred to the Government’s recent adoption of a new definition of anti-Semitism which will help to “clarify how anti-Semitism can manifest itself in the 21st century”.
He continued by stating that universities “have a responsibility to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all students”, underlining that each institution should implement “robust policies and procedures in place to comply with the law and to enable them to investigate and address swiftly any anti-Semitic incidents that are reported”.
In response to the question regarding the steps being taken to tackle discrimination, Mr Johnson spoke of the Harassment Taskforce that the Government asked Universities UK (UUK) to set up in 2015. The objectives of the taskforce were “to consider what more can be done to address harassment on campus, including on the basis of religion and belief”. Its report, ‘Changing the Culture’, was published in October 2016.
Mr Johnson concluded his response by saying that the “Government has asked UUK to monitor progress, and UUK plan “to establish more baseline evidence, and to assess institutions’ progress in implementing the recommendations and report later this year”.