Posts Tagged ‘UCU’
It is slow blogging from me for a while, but I would recommend that readers take a long hard look in at Engage.
Recently they have been superb, positively on steroids with a fine bevy of posts.
I would suggest that members of the University and College Union read and think about James Mendelsohn’s resignation letter to Sally Hunt, which I produce in full:
Thank you for your message.
I was happy to sign the petition of no confidence in the government’s HE policies and, like you, I have very serious concerns about the White Paper.
Regrettably, though, I am no longer able to join in UCU’s fight against the government’s measures. This is because I am no longer a member of UCU. Following the passing of Motion 70 at the most recent annual Congress, I felt that I had no choice but to resign. Not only does Motion 70 reject the most widely-used definition of anti-Semitism in the world, it fails to provide any alternative definition. The motives of those who proposed the motion are clear: they rightly understood that, according to the EUMC Working Definition, their obsessive campaign to single out Israeli academics for boycott year on year might indeed be anti-Semitic. Whether intentionally or otherwise, this has made UCU an even more uncomfortable place for Jewish members than it was previously. I can no longer contribute money to such an organisation in good conscience.
Please do not send me the same generic response you have sent to others who have resigned on these grounds. Sadly, your repeated claim that UCU abhors anti-Semitism is not borne out by the evidence; rather, the evidence points overwhelmingly in the other direction. For example, a union which truly abhorred anti-Semitism would have no truck with Bongani Masuku, whose statements were correctly defined as anti-Semitic hate speech by the South African Human Rights Commission. UCU, by contrast, invited Masuku to promote the boycott campaign. Does that sound to you like the mark of a union which abhors anti-Semitism?
Speaking on a more personal level, I sent you three emails on related issues in 2008, which are attached. I think you would agree that a trade union which abhorred anti-Semitism would take such emails from an ordinary member seriously. Regrettably, I never received a reply to any of them.
I no longer wish to contribute my money to an organisation which has a problem with institutionalised anti-Semitism. I am sure I will not be the last Jewish member who feels forced to resign, even at a time when trade union protection and solidarity are more important than ever. Once again -please do not send me your generic reply. All I would ask you is: do you realise that the boycott campaign is now weakening the union’s numbers and credibility, at a time when a strong union is needed more than ever? And do you ever lie awake at night wondering why, in the 21st century, Jewish members have left UCU in droves?
Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Huddersfield ” [My emphasis.]
I thought I should see what others are doing:
Flesh is Grass has an important post on how the EDL managed to march, unescorted, from Redbridge to Dagenham.
Yaacov Lozowick has given up blogging. Pity, I didn’t agree with him, much, but he has a thoughtful way and articulates many intelligent ideas.
Johnny Guitar thinks about the Troubles, the Good Friday Agreement and the need for a South Africa-style truth commission, just not at the moment.
Weggis on the case against biofuels. Completely agree, it seems so questionable to use food stuff or related material as fuel for the internal combustion engine.
Harry Barnes on Sorting Out The Labour Party, which I think is very optimistic. In the short term they could ditch Ed Miliband, try to be a bit radical, really, seriously distance themselves from the skeleton of New Labour. Chance would be a fine thing.
In related news, I am not surprised that Ed Miliband is less popular than Iain Duncan Smith or William Hague, when they were in a similar position. Frankly, Miliband’s inarticulate, has the charisma of a saucer and he’s politically useless.
Jams looks at an evil cat, great photos.
Mark Gardner at the CST has a reflective post on the situation at UCU and its wider implications, From UCU to MEMO and “Israel’s British hirelings”.
Ten minutes hate on the ‘miracle villages’.
Chris Dillow considers Miliband’s power blindness.
Sorrel Moseley-Williams ponders Journalists’ Day in Argentina.
Not a blog, but worthwhile all the same. Searchlight on the BNP’s use of Facebook and Twitter.
Rosie looks at Fact and Fiction.
James Bloodworth has a couple of cracking posts, Will the Defence Secretary’s links with Sri Lanka compromise British calls for an enquiry? and Isn’t it time for an apology, Mr Chomsky?
Rebecca provides an update on the Gaza flotilla. Personally, I think the Israeli Government should allow them into Gaza with minimum fuss or hassle. I think Gazans should get as much as they can, after all living under Hamas must be terrible.
Jack of Kent looks at the arrest of blogger Jacqui Thompson and the many unanswered questions.
Greens Engage on Cynthia and Jello.
At Greater Surbiton, a guest post by David Pettigrew, Justice in Bosnia after Mladic.
Engage has an abundance of posts which should be read, just a small selection: Open antisemitism doesn’t harm your reputation, Sally Hunt pretends not to understand the term “institutional racism” and Richard Kuper on the Working Definition of Anti-Semitism (by Eve Garrard)
You might have supposed that University and College Union’s delegates at their recent Congress would have had a grasp of cause and effect (coming from the educational sector as they do), or at the very least, they should have had some sense of history, but apparently not.
When the UCU’s NEC brought forth a motion disregarding the EUMC’s working definition on antisemitism they seemed to think nothing would occur. That no one would respond. That people would not notice or care.
Because if they did appreciate the dialectic of politics, how their actions would cause immense offence and disquiet, then the UCU’s NEC would have known that consequences must surely follow from their actions.
If they knew that there would be a negative response, and as a result that trade unionism would be weakened and disparaged then the UCU’s NEC are culpable of bringing trade unionism into disrepute. They can’t have believed that this issue existed in a political vacuum. They knew what they were doing and how it would reap a detrimental reaction for trade unionism. The UCU’s NEC are, at the very least, guilty of endangering the continuation of trade unionism within further and higher education.
As the days and weeks pass that is what we are seeing. UCU members are leaving in disgust. UCU’s actions have been shown to be intellectually untenable and reprehensible in the extreme. Trade unionism and UCU has been brought into disrepute by UCU’s institutionalised racism.
“The Board of Deputies of British Jews has written to vice-chancellors urging them to consider derecognising the University and College Union if it “refuses to address claims of institutional racism”.
The UCU has been criticised by Jewish groups after delegates at its recent congress voted to reject a working definition of anti-Semitism produced by the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia.
The UCU motion says that the working definition “confuses criticism of Israeli government policy and actions with genuine anti-Semitism” and “is being used to silence debate about Israel and Palestine on campus”.
The motion, proposed by the UCU’s national executive committee, says the union “will make no use of the definition (eg, in educating members or dealing with internal complaints)”.
The UCU has previously attracted criticism from Jewish groups for motions proposing an academic boycott of Israel, although no such motions were raised at this year’s congress.
Vivian Wineman, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, wrote to vice-chancellors on 1 June.
“Following these developments, and in light of UCU’s history of behaviour, we now believe it to be an institutionally racist organisation,” he writes.
Mr Wineman adds that since its formation in 2006, the UCU “has been obsessed with Jews and Israel”.
The boycott debate “has poisoned the atmosphere inside UCU and led to many Jewish members feeling harassed for their beliefs and identities”, he argues.
He adds: “If UCU refuses to address claims of institutional racism, then we would ask that you reconsider whether formal union recognition…is appropriate at all”. “
I want to post on the truly appalling events at yesterday’s UCU congress, but time is short and others express themselves much better than I could:
“Quite simply, the claim that the Working Definition – when properly used – shuts down debate on Israel does not stand up to scrutiny.
The UCU, however, cannot claim to be in any doubt about the purpose of the Working Definition. The proposers of the motion have clearly read it very carefully and they know full well that it is intended to be a working guide. They just don’t agree with the content – that’s why they have dismissed it entirely, making “no use” of it, not even in “educating members”.
If the UCU were merely guilty of ignorance, that could be understood and – through education and dialogue – resolved. If someone had proposed that the UCU adopt the Working Definition, and Congress were to reject it, that would be the result of ignorance. Regrettable, but understandable.
However, the UCU has never used the Working Definition, and nobody proposed that it should start doing so. Instead, UCU has decided, apropos of nothing, to condemn the Working Definition whilst offering no serious alternative. In doing so, they have singled out antisemitism from other forms of prejudice as something only they, and not the victims, have the right to identify.
That’s where this goes beyond ignorance into genuine malice. One is left wondering what occupies the thoughts of those who are so keen to lecture Jews on what constitutes antisemitism. Jewish students are left wondering whether their lecturers’ commitment to “combat all forms of racial or religious discrimination” is anything other than hollow rhetoric. “
The University and College Union should be in the vanguard of dealing with racism within Higher Education in Britain, yet its own institutionalised racism and unhealthy preoccupation with boycotting Israelis seems to detract from that very necessary task.
Only recently did the UCU NEC try to redefine anti-Jewish racism as a method of extricating itself from the many problems brought about by its own actions.
The Guardian reports on passive racism within Higher Education:
“The HESA figures show black British professors make up just 0.4% of all British professors – 50 out of 14,385.
This is despite the fact that 2.8% of the population of England and Wales is Black African or Black Caribbean, according to the Office for National Statistics. Only 10 of the 50 black British professors are women.
The figures reflect professors in post in December 2009. When black professors from overseas were included, the figure rose to 75. This is still 0.4%of all 17,375 professors at UK universities. The six universities with more than two black professors from the UK or overseas include London Metropolitan, Nottingham, and Brunel universities. Some 94.3% of British professors are white, and 3.7% are Asian. Some 1.2% of all academics – not just professors – are black. There are no black vice-chancellorsin the UK.
Harry Goulbourne, professor of sociology at London South Bank University, said that while the crude racism of the past had gone, universities were riddled with “passive racism”. He said that, as a black man aspiring to be a professor, he had had to publish twice as many academic papers as his white peers. He said he had switched out of the field of politics, because it was not one that promoted minorities. He called for a “cultural shift” inside the most prestigious universities.
Mirza said UK universities were “nepotistic and cliquey”. “It is all about who you know,” she said. “
Update 1: I wonder if the topic will be discussed at the UCU Congress 2011 currently going on? I suppose so, now the Guardian has mentioned it.
Update 2: From what I can see, the motion from UCU NEC’s abdicating on anti-Jewish racism will take place at the UCU Congress 2011 on Monday 30 May, between 14:45-16.45, under the Business of the equality committee. Not sure that is 100%, as times can often change at Union congresses as business is shifted around, if anyone hears more please let me know.
Update 3: The UCU Congress can be followed live on Twitter via UCU’s web site.
Firstly, thanks to Engage for pointing me towards Ben Gidley’s piece at Dissent, The Politics of Defining Racism: The Case of Anti-Semitism in the University and College Union. Clearly, Dr. Gidley is very knowledgeable on this topic and a pleasure to read, here’s a snippet:
“Racism is mercurial. It mutates over time. Pseudoscientific racial theories are now spouted only by marginal cranks. Notions that different races are different species have come and gone; eugenics has come and gone; words like “Aryan” and “Semitic” are starting to sound quaint. The period since the 1980s has seen the rise of cultural racism, or racism that focuses on cultural differences rather than biological ones.”
In class related matters, the Guardian asked its staff, who’d been educated at Oxbridge and had it helped them in their career. Hmm, not a hard question to answer. Next, they’ll be saying old Etonians dominate the British establishment.
The New York Times on Ratko Mladić, chocolates and genocide. I expect that Ed Herman and Diana Johnstone will be up in arms shortly. Balkan Witness has a good page on Herman and other’s denial. NPR is worth a read.
Time has an informative piece on the psychology of dictators, and I suspect that its findings apply more broadly than many would care to admit.
Eve Garrard at Norm’s examines the issue of racism within UCU:
“The UCU (the academics’ union) is now trying to change the definition of anti-Semitism in order to maintain a policy which discriminates against Jews, without having to acknowledge that it is indeed discriminatory. The policy in question is the proposed boycott of Israel: the UCU singles out Israel, and Israel alone, for special condemnation and punitive treatment. The Union has form in this matter: I resigned from it three years ago when it displayed that same intense desire to select Israel, and no other country in the world, for boycott, even in the face of legal advice that such a practice would fall foul of anti-discrimination law in this country. Now it is so determined to maintain its stance, and so cocksure about its own moral and political superiority, that its Executive proposes to reject the EU definition of anti-Semitism, since according to that definition the UCU’s singular and selective hostility to Israel may indeed be anti-Semitic.
Those of us who took part in some of the debates about Israel on the Union activists’ list will recall with misery the readiness of people on that list to compare Israel to the Nazis, to claim that Gaza was equivalent to the Warsaw ghetto, to denounce Israel as an apartheid state, and to praise boycotters’ sterling courage in bravely ignoring the worries of Jewish UCU members who felt that we were seeing a resurgence of anti-Semitism under the thin disguise of an anti-Zionist figleaf. Such worries were standardly discredited by claiming that they were merely dishonest attempts to distract attention from Israel’s crimes. This discrediting manoeuvre doesn’t seem to have been entirely successful, since the UCU now feels the need to rebut charges of anti-Semitism by definitional fiat: if a definition of racism shows up our practices as racist, then… change the definition! Words mean whatever we want them to mean, whatever we say they mean. You might think that academics would be able to find a better political role model than Humpty-Dumpty, but they’re under a hard drive here: if the UCU were to accept that singling out the world’s only Jewish state for uniquely hostile treatment, or spreading innuendos about the sinister global power of its supporters, or telling lies about it being a practitioner of apartheid, or making a disgusting equivalence between Zionists and Nazis – if the Union were to accept that all or even any of these activities might be anti-Semitic practices, then some influential members of the UCU might show up as endorsing anti-Semitism. But that would be intolerable – better to announce that the word ‘anti-Semitism’ needs to be given a different definition. ” [My emphasis.]
“People who carp and quibble over definitions of racism often have ulterior motives; and even more so, when they seek to outlaw the mere suggestion of a certain definition of racism.
When the British National Party shouts “Rights for Whites” whilst urging racism against non-whites, you know what kind of self-serving hypocrisy you are dealing with. In the context of Jews and antisemitism, however, you have the striking phenomenon of far left organisations and individuals who bitterly oppose racism and are very quick to see and oppose it in all sorts of places: but are deeply and actively hostile to mainstream Jewish perceptions on antisemitism.
Step forward, then, the Executive Committee of the University and College Union (UCU), who have proposed a resolution for UCU’s forthcoming conference to banish all use of the “working definition of antisemitism”, which was drafted for law enforcement and human rights agencies by the anti-racism watchdog of the European Union, the European Union Monitoring Centre (EUMC, now renamed Fundamental Rights Agency) back in 2004/2005. It is not that the UCU approves of antisemitism, far from it: but its disapproval of antisemitism comes strictly within its own terms and its own guideleines, and appears utterly subordinate to its own ideological wordview. “
Looking back, from my earliest days I was a trade unionist, active in many unions in lay positions and committed to trade unionism. Equally, I have always had a high regard for academics and scholars, as a book lover, but I am dismayed at the posturing and intellectual stupidity coming out of the University and College Union’s (UCU) National Executive Committee.
UCU’s NEC have submitted a motion to Congress which essentially says: “Antisemitism, we don’t want a policy and won’t listen to anyone who wants to discuss it”.
This motion only reinforces the view that UCU are institutionally antisemitic, that is, they are unable and unwilling to counter anti-Jewish racism within their own organisation.
However, the Met Police did not, if I remember correctly, respond by saying:
“The Race Relations Act is stifling debate on immigrants, blacks and other foreigners. We, the Met Police, reject its usage and it should not be used in educating people against racial prejudice or internal disputes within the Police Service.”
NO, the Met Police didn’t say that, but in this motion that’s essentially what UCU are arguing concerning anti-Jewish racism.
The Met Police acknowledged they had a problem with racism, which is considerably better than UCU have done.
So we have the anomaly of a Union for academics, staff and others in the educational sector unable to face up to anti-Jewish racism, whereas even the awful, often violent and thugish Met Police have done something against institutional racism, but not UCU:
“70 EUMC working definition of anti-semitism – National Executive Committee
Congress notes with concern that the so-called ‘EUMC working definition of antisemitism’, while not adopted by the EU or the UK government and having no official status, is being used by bodies such as the NUS and local student unions in relation to activities on campus.
Congress believes that the EUMC definition confuses criticism of Israeli government policy and actions with genuine antisemitism, and is being used to silence debate about Israel and Palestine on campus.
1. that UCU will make no use of the EUMC definition (e.g. in educating members or dealing with internal complaints)
2. that UCU will dissociate itself from the EUMC definition in any public discussion on the matter in which UCU is involved
3. that UCU will campaign for open debate on campus concerning Israel’s past history and current policy, while continuing to combat all forms of racial or religious discrimination.”
It is hard to think of greater intellectual turpitude, an inability to deal with anti-Jewish racism, and why those in the educational sector should consciously choose to go down this path is beyond me, but let us refesh our memories as to what institutional racism is:
“The collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people.“
The Macpherson report
“Institutional racism is that which, covertly or overtly, resides in the policies, procedures, operations and culture of public or private institutions – reinforcing individual prejudices and being reinforced by them in turn.”
A. Sivanandan, Director, Institute of Race Relations
“If racist consequences accrue to institutional laws, customs or practices, that institution is racist whether or not the individuals maintaning those practices have racial intentions.”
The Commission for Racial Equality “
Perhaps instead of playing political games UCU’s NEC would be better off admitting the obvious, the institutional racism within UCU and dealing with it, or at the very least making an effort, as the Met Police did a decade ago.
Update 1: Engage has more, David Hirsh is very good on these issues:
“The EUMC definition says it may, in some contexts, be antisemitic to accuse Jews of being more loyal to Israel than to their union; to say Israel is a racist endeavour; to apply double standards; to boycott Israelis but not others for the same violations; to say that Israeli policy is like Nazi policy; to hold Jews collectively responsible for the actions of Israel. All of these things have been going on a lot inside the academic unions for the last eight years. Instead of addressing the antisemitic culture, the leadership of the union now proposes to alter the definition of antisemitism. The union wants to carry on treating ‘Zionists’ as disloyal; singling out Israel and only Israel for boycott; holding Israeli universities responsible for their government; allowing ‘Zionist’ union members to be denounced as Nazis or supporters of apartheid.
The precise form that bullying typically takes within UCU is that people who complain about antisemitism are accused of doing so in bad faith in a dishonest attempt to outlaw criticism of Israel. The antisemitism isn’t seen, isn’t acknowledged, the accuser is accused; and Israel is blamed for the unseen and unacknowledged antisemitism.”
I am away for a few days, but meant to post this letter from the Indy a while back:
“I wonder whether it is just possible that those members of the University and College Union (UCU) who, for many years, have campaigned for the academic boycott of Israel – the only democratic country in the Middle East – are prepared to think seriously about the implications of the Gaddafi-LSE affair and the acceptance by several UK Universities of huge amounts of money in order to set up Oriental Institutes and Islamic and Middle Eastern studies centres whose academic appointments and courses of study are strongly influenced by their patrons.
Will those members of UCU who call for the boycott of Israeli universities remain silent about the acceptance of funding with strings attached from the despotic rulers of countries such as Lybia, Saudi Arabia or Qatar?
Emeritus Professor of Spanish
University of Southampton “
If readers are bored in my absent, please read Jhate it is a very good blog and relevent today, Kevin MacDonald is hilarious.
Engage covers another staged debate on the boycotting of Israelis, to be held at the LSE, on Thursday 13th January 2011.
Looking at the participants, one of them seemed familiar to me, John Chalcraft.
I haven’t heard Dr. Chalcraft speak, but I vaguely remember an argument he posed before on boycotting Israelis.
Norm covered it, 4 years ago:
“Like the AUT boycott decision that came before it (see the links at the end of this post), the vote yesterday at the Bournemouth conference of UCU disgraces a union representing British academics, and it will stain its reputation and moral standing so long as the decision is allowed to stand. Arguing for the boycott position yesterday, John Chalcraft wrote:
The movement for boycott is in no way anti-semitic. It includes Jews and non-Jews…
Well, whether the policy of boycotting Israeli academics is anti-Semitic or not, the fact that the movement in favour of it includes some Jews is neither here nor there. This can’t establish its ‘clean’ credentials, as will be quickly seen from the following simple thought experiment.
Imagine a policy that you’re certain would be anti-Semitic: say, just for example, a law requiring all Jewish academics to wear insignia of identity when at their place of work. Now, suppose some Jews who support this law, for whatever reason. End of thought experiment.**
The anti-Semitic or non-anti-Semitic character of any policy depends on its overall shape and effects and not on whether or not it has some Jewish supporters – even though, in the nature of things, most Jews will pass up the opportunity of supporting anti-Semitic policies. But most is just most; it isn’t all”
**In my view Norm’s argument here is a bit too subtle.
So it is with Dr. Chalcraft’s arguments and he’s been going on about boycotting Israelis (and no one else) for years and years.
Still, I suppose it provides an outlet for him and others, a bit like that bloke down the Pub who rants when certain topics come up. Its something a kin to the equivalent of Middle Class football hooliganism, something to let frustrations out on, a useful whipping boy for Western angst and alienation.
Now I am a great believer in argumentation, but it seems unlikely that ANY argument would sway or deflect these anti-Israeli obsessives, as we’ve seen before with the institutionalised racism in UCU.
I wonder if these words will be used by pro-boycotters at the LSE debate “Of course, some of my best friends are…..”?
Update 1: The LSE’s cartography has been lacking recently, as the JPost relates:
“LONDON – A prestigious British university apologized on Thursday for using a map of the Middle East without Israel in an article in one of its publications.
The alumni magazine of the London School of Economics, LSE Connect, published a story about the school’s new Middle East research center with a map of the Middle East that had Beirut and the Gaza Strip but no Israel.
In the article, it said that the creation of the center was made possible because of the support of two organizations from the United Arab Emirates. The Emirates Foundation for Philanthropy and the Aman Trust contributed £9.2 million. “
A recent letter of resignation (or 2) from the University and College Union highlights how the proposed boycott of Israelis has weakened the Trade Union movement in Britain.
Despite numerous letters and resignations UCU still doesn’t take seriously the question of its institutionalised racism, from Shalom Lappin’s resignation and those that followed, on and on and on.
As Shalom Lappin wrote:
“In my view, matters have reached the point where the UCU is no longer an effective agent of industrial democracy or a credible representative of its members in the struggle for improved working conditions in the University sector. It has allowed itself to be infected by the raw prejudice of a small group of political extremists, who are using it to pursue an appalling agenda. In these circumstances I see no alternative but to withdraw from the union. I will work against the discrimination that the boycott campaign is attempting to promote in a more efficient way than by allowing myself to be placed in the defendant’s dock by agents of bigotry in an endlessly recurring, stacked “debate” within the UCU. If the UCU ever frees itself from the malevolent grip of the boycott obsession which it has permitted to flourish in its midst and returns to its intended role as a genuine labour union, I will be delighted to return.”
It is a terrible state of affairs when a modern trade union can’t address the issue of institutionalised racism within it and forces members who resigned in protest.
David Hirsh has documented, with customary clarity, the sorry tale of institutionalised racism in UCU.
I suspect for the sake of brevity that Dr. Hirsh had to leave out a fair amount of material
I can’t think of any other circumstance, or any other trade union, that would not start questioning itself if Jewish members left in droves as has happened at UCU.
Yet the question of “why ?” doesn’t seem to occur to UCU or its leaders, which is rather depressing.
In a rather transparent tactic, UCU is using a proxy to advance the campaign to boycott Israelis, Engage has much more.
I have said this more than once, this anti-Israeli boycott campaign is poison to the trade union movement.
“UCU member Says:
December 5, 2009 at 11:25 pm
I have had enough. I have resigned.
The UCU are evidently willing to play with antisemitism in their obsessive pursuit of Israel.
The UCU have stood back whilst members have been bullied and harassed.
Those that dare question the boycott have been told that the Union would be better without them; and, no action against that member taken.
The UCU has allowed hatred to ferment and mature.
The UCU have permitted comment that in any other forum would be seen to go against any and all standards that comprise civilised discourse and disagreement.
They have made a mockery of all the standards of equality and freedom from discrimination that we, as a Trade Union movement fought so hard to have enacted.
Throughout this entire period they have allowed the the low, background hum of antisemitism to continue unabated until its own executive officer chairs a meeting in which a person found guilty of race-hate speech is given a platform.
This is not an organisation that I wish to support, morally, politically and financially.”
Update 2: See UCU’s boycott of Israel blinds it to antisemitism. Is this solidarity? at Flesh is Grass.