Motion on IHRA Definition of Anti-Semitism

CUCU notes that: 

  • The University of Cambridge has “formally adopted” the International Holocaust Rembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism at a meeting of General Board on 4 November 2020.
  • The Secretary of State for Education has called on universities to adopt and implement the IHRA working definition, stating that he would take action against those which failed to do so by potentially suspending their funding. 
  • The Academic Board at UCL voted against adopting the IHRA definition following the recommendation of a report by the AB’s Working Group on Racism and Prejudice which concluded that the IHRA definition constituted a threat to academic freedom without providing additional protection against antisemitism for Jewish students and staff. 
  • There is widespread opposition (across the UK, US, Canada and other parts of the world) to the use of the IHRA definition in a university context, especially as a disciplinary tool, including by its author Kenneth Stern, and by the chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Baroness Falkner.

CUCU believes that: 

  • The vote by the UCL Academic Board shows why wide-ranging and careful debate is essential when considering whether to adopt the IHRA definition, and regrets that this did not take place in Cambridge, where the definition was imposed by a decision of the General Board. 
  • There is a fundamental contradiction between the implementation of the IHRA definition in relation to the University’s rules, and its obligation in law to uphold academic freedom. The caveats adopted by General Board do not resolve this contradiction, leaving staff and students in the dark as to which acts or ideas may be considered antisemitic under the definition.  

CUCU resolves to: 

  • Invite colleagues from UCL UCU to speak to a briefing for members on the implications of the AB vote against adopting the IHRA definition with the possible aim of building a local campaign which urges the University not to implement the definition and instead to explore the use of other approaches to defining and combating antisemitism.