Confronting campus vilification

November 11, 2014 by J-Wire Staff
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Federal Labor MP Michael Danby has expressed concern about antisemitic bigotry experienced at Australian universities.


Dean Sherr, Jessica Conish, Professor John Rosenberg, Michael Danby and Josh Burns

Dean Sherr, Jessica Conish, Professor John Rosenberg, Michael Danby and Josh Burns

‘Anti-Jewish bigotry on campus, particularly at La Trobe University, is the subject of political concern in Australia at the highest level of both Government and Opposition, ‘Member for Melbourne Ports Michael Danby said.

Mr Danby was speaking after a meeting held at his office about the harassment of Jewish students at La Trobe University during the recent Hamas–Israel violence. The meeting was convened by state Labor candidate for Caulfield Josh Burns, who came off the campaign trail to show his particular concern with the intimidation aimed at La Trobe student Jessica Cornish.

Ms Cornish, General Secretary of the La Trobe Student Union, was called a ‘supporter of genocide’ on posters plastered in student areas of La Trobe University. She was also confronted by three males from the communist-controlled ‘Socialist Alternative’. One of those students, Ryan Higginson, was subsequently suspended for nine months by the university.

The meeting at Mr Danby’s office included Mr Danby, Mr Burns, incoming Australasian Union of Jewish Students President Dean Sherr, Ms Cornish and Prof John Rosenberg. Prof Rosenberg, former Deputy Vice Chancellor of La Trobe University, was commissioned by current Vice Chancellor John Dewar to write a report about the anti-Jewish incidents. Discussion during the meeting centred on Prof Rosenberg’s recommendations to La Trobe to implement new measures to create a cultural change, with an aim to prevent future vilification, racism and abuse at La Trobe.

During the meeting, Prof Rosenberg noted that, whilst preparing the report, he was surprised to learn that Jewish students on campus often feel unsafe, isolated and disconnected from La Trobe. This was due to a consistently demonstrated, overwhelming and aggressive anti-Israel sentiment.

Mr Danby, who had originally taken the issue up with the La Trobe administration said, “the university is taking this issue very seriously and I believe has agreed to implement all the recommendations in Prof Rosenberg’s report.’ Mr Danby strongly encouraged La Trobe to engage with outside organisations, such as Courage to Care, in order to better respond to serious issues on campus such as anti-Semitism, racism, vilification and abuse in a timely and effective manner.

Ms Cornish said, “A good end-result would be if an anti-racist, anti-vilification organisation, such as Courage to Care, counselled all incoming student union office bearers so they can lead by example, and help make La Trobe a safer and more inclusive university for all students.”

Dean Sherr added: “It’s heartening to see that after the appalling harassment and vilification Jessica received at La Trobe University, and the hard work AUJS and Michael Danby’s office put into engaging with the university, that La Trobe has sought to undertake serious improvements to creating a more tolerant, warm and accepting environment for all students. Professor Rosenberg’s report acknowledges the fact that Jewish students at La Trobe University have found a hostile environment which has sadly and untolerably made them scared to identify as Jewish at University; and unwilling to participate in campus life. We’re very pleased with these developments and AUJS commends the University’s strong stand against bigotry and vilification on campus and Jessica’s bravery and persistence to make La Trobe a safer and more positive institution for Jewish students.”


3 Responses to “Confronting campus vilification”
  1. David Schulberg says:

    How about some real journalism i.e disclosure of the actual report written by Prof John Rosenberg.

  2. Andrew Gilbert says:

    It’s pretty shocking to me that J-wire seems to be going along with the propagandist conflation of any criticism of Israel with antisemitism.
    Calling someone a “supporter of genocide” because they back Israel against Hamas is not antisemitic in any respect. It may be arguable, but it is a judgement of Israeli/Zionist policies and not a judgement of Jews as a people of ethnic group. To call it racist is just like being called racist or Islamophobic for not supporting Hamas against Israel. A ridiculous notion, that would be dismissed by anyone in the press tout-court.
    Where do Zionists get off assuming that they represent all Jews ever? Where do they get off assuming their crimes in modern Palestine are the responsibility of every Jew? This may help them live with themselves, but it is an utter distortion that drags all Jewish people down into the filth of Israeli policies.
    This sort of conflation does nothing to advance the cause of peace. It is simply a whitewashing of Israel’s conduct by appeal to the race card. It is meant to shut down any criticism of Israel at all, before it gets of the ground, by lazily branding it as racist. Quite a hypocrisy given the system of apartheid and ethnic exclusion that Palestinians are forced to live with everyday.
    I thought triple J was smarter than this, but here it seems to have bought into Zionist propaganda hook line and sinker.

  3. Adrian Jackson says:

    Sometimes free speech can be unkind but so what? Universities are traditionally a hotbed of political intrigue but usually by a small percentage of students as most students concentrate on their studies rather that factional or ideological politics

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