Statement Regarding the University of Adelaide’s Rejection of IHRA

To our members and the wider community,

As you may know, on the 11th of April the University of Adelaide published what they have called a “Statement Regarding Freedom of Speech”. It was in this statement that the University of Adelaide shared that they will not be adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism.

The Adelaide University Jewish Students’ Society (AUJSS) and the Australasian Union of Jewish Students South Australia (AUJS SA) are extremely disappointed that this is the stance the University of Adelaide has decided to take. Given that there have been a number of antisemitic incidents on campus recently, we are hurt and condemn the University’s decision on this matter. Furthermore, the University of Adelaide has attempted to defend antisemitic rhetoric and discourse and normalise it as so-called “free speech”.

Last year, AUJSS and AUJS SA expressed willingness to work with the University constructively on the issue of antisemitism. However, the University of Adelaide leadership and administration did not once consult with us about a definition of antisemitism or how the adoption or non-adoption of one would impact us. There remains no clear policy at the University of Adelaide that deals with antisemitism, leaving Jewish students bewildered as to how to respond to it within the confinements of the University.

Sadly, 2022 is not the first time the University of Adelaide received media attention over antisemitic incidents. 

In 2018, it was reported that University of Adelaide students dressed as Holocaust victims and as Nazis, while performing the Nazi salute, at a University affiliated venue. 

In 2014 campus was vandalised with a Star of David with ‘666’ and ‘No Jew world order’ written by it. An AUJS spokesperson from the University at the time said there had been several ‘cases of Jewish students feeling intimidated and harassed’, and that the University’s response had been ‘lackluster’.

We understand that since September 2022, University leadership had several meetings with the Jewish Community Council of South Australia (JCCSA) and that they also wished to work constructively with the University. However, the University never revealed to the JCCSA that they had made the decision to not adopt the IHRA definition. They did not invite any Jewish community organisation in South Australia to make a submission about the IHRA definition. However, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (External Engagement) Dr Jessica Gallagher did manage to invite Australian Friends of Palestine Association (AFOPA) to argue against it. This has sent the message to us that the University leadership does not care about the well-being and safety of Jewish students and that they have no desire to counter antisemitism on campus.

We are disappointed that we are yet to see any tangible, meaningful, or genuine action taken by the University of Adelaide. 

We welcome the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and the Zionist Federation of Australia’s statements condemning the University’s decision. We are also pleased that the Adelaide Holocaust Museum & Andrew Steiner Education Centre have decided to withdraw from a partnership with the University. AHMSEC were supposed to be involved in a South Australian History Festival event at the University, but will no longer be doing this. Centre Director Kathy Baykitch said, “By not adopting the IHRA definition the university has illustrated an institutionalised lack of understanding of antisemitism and why the definition exists.” Ms Baykitch has called on the University to reverse this decision, and has encouraged them to “implement strategies to combat antisemitism on campus.” We are grateful for their support.

The University, under its current leadership, has the opportunity to face, address and fix the hostile environment that exists on campus and that has existed for some time now.

We will continue to do what we can to help Jewish students feel not only safe and protected but welcome, at the University of Adelaide. We will continue to advocate for Jewish students, and would welcome the opportunity to meet with Vice-Chancellor Høj and work with him to ensure that the University of Adelaide can uphold its values and culture to make the campus a safe and inclusive place for all.  

If you have experienced antisemitism as a student or staff in the tertiary sector since 2012, please report it to the JCCSA at the link below. You can report anonymously:

Jonathan & Jasmine

President and Vice-President of AUJSS & AUJS SA