The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has published a report showing that two-thirds of students who said that they had experienced racial harassment during the first half of the 2018/19 academic year did not report it to their university.
The reasons for the underreporting included a lack of confidence that the university would address the matter and fears of the personal consequences on their education, career and wellbeing of making a report, as well as ignorance of how to make reports.
The EHRC’s report quoted an undergraduate at an English university being told by a fellow student that “they were baking Jews like cupcakes in Auschwitz” and that they would like to put the student in an oven, while antisemitic slurs toward students and staff were noted at Scottish and Welsh universities as well.
One of the most widely reported antisemitic issues, according to the report, was harassment experienced by students in and around protest events on campus, including physical intimidation.
According to the report, “racial harassment can cause humiliation, isolation, loss of confidence and serious harm to mental health and wellbeing. Students who experienced racial harassment said they were left feeling angry, upset, depressed, anxious and vulnerable; eight percent said they had felt suicidal.”
The research indicated that one in twenty students said that they had left their studies due to racial harassment and three in twenty staff said that racial harassment had caused them to leave their jobs.
The report further stated that many universities significantly underestimate the prevalence of racial harassment and overestimate victims’ willingness to come forward, the adequacy of their own processes and their record of handling reports. “Nearly all universities we surveyed who had received complaints felt that they had dealt with them fairly. However, our call for evidence found a much higher level of dissatisfaction with investigative processes than university responses would suggest.”
The report provides numerous recommendations, but Campaign Against Antisemitism also calls on universities to adopt the International Definition of Antisemitism, without which the handling of antisemitic abuse by campus authorities will inevitably be haphazard, inconsistent and inadequate. It will also indicate to Jewish students, staff and the wider community – as well as antisemites – that universities take antisemitism on campus seriously.