University apologises for professor’s remarks

March 24, 2016 by J-Wire Staff
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University of Auckland acclaimed hate crimes expert Professor Scott Poynting​ is to leave his job after comparing an Israeli company employing Palestinians to a German company employing Jews.

Scott Poynting

Scott Poynting

The commentary rankled various groups, including the New Zealand Jewish Council and a fellow academic, who complained to the university, branding the professor’s letter to the editor as anti-Semitic.

The news website reported that “the institution had found Poynting not guilty of professional misconduct and it had been suggested to Poynting he should write a second letter to the editor of the Waikato Times clarifying he was not intending to make anti-Semitic remarks.

Poynting had refused to write a clarification, so University Vice-Chancellor Stuart McCutcheon apologised on behalf of the educational institution.

“… I do acknowledge that the way in which Scott Poynting expressed himself caused considerable distress to many members of the community. On behalf of the University of Auckland, I offer my own sincere apologies for that distress,” McCutcheon wrote in a letter to a newspaper.

The New Zealand Tertiary Education Union (TEU) has become involved following McCutcheon’s final line.

“Professor Poynting’s employment with the University of Auckland concludes on 30 June 2016.”

TEU organiser Enzo Giordani said that Poynting was always planning to retire on that date.


SodaStream Australia Official Store: Sparkling Water Makers, Flavours, C02 & Bottles 2016-03-24 15-30-52According to Stuff, the union believes the final line made it seem as though Poynting had been pressured to leave the university as a result of the fracas.

“The letter is misleadingly written. No action was taken against Scott Poynting,” according to the union organiser.

Although Giordani would not expand what action could be taken, a response to the university had been drafted.

​In a joint statement, New Zealand Jewish Council chairman Geoff Levy and president Stephen Goodman said they were still seeking an apology from Poynting, and wanted the University of Auckland to publicly distance itself from the remarks.

“The hateful views expressed by Professor Poynting in his letter to the Waikato Times have no place in New Zealand, let alone within our academic institutions. While it is reassuring to know that Poynting will not be working at the University of Auckland much longer, the private nature of the apology from Professor McCutcheon does not promote transparency or proper accountability.

“The New Zealand Jewish Council would have expected the University of Auckland to publicly distance itself from the views of Professor Poynting, as other universities have done in similar situations, rather than privately apologise for any distress caused.”

Poynting had written, “Thank you for explaining in your article how SodaStream generously provided work for Palestinians (Waikato Times, November 26). I understand that IG Farben provided work for large numbers of Jews. Not that I have anything against Germans, mind you.”

He signed it Scott Poynting and did not make any mention of his professional capacity.

The letter was written as a private citizen and should not be considered as a work-related matter, nor should it come under the guise of academic freedom, Academic Freedom Aotearoa co-founder and TEU president Sandra Grey said.


One Response to “University apologises for professor’s remarks”
  1. Ian Grinblat says:

    So much noise. So much wasted energy. And for what? An insincere apology? A never-ending stream of articles about how the Jewish community of New Zealand used its irresistible political and financial power to silence a great human being? It’s just New Zealand. The community would be better off leaving.

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