The AJN understands a successful action could set a precedent for other universities.

Photo: AAP Image/Dean Lewins
Photo: AAP Image/Dean Lewins

A failure to effectively tackle antisemitism on campus in the wake of October 7 has led to the University of Sydney (USYD) staring down the barrel of a potential class action under the Racial Discrimination Act.

Barrister Adam Butt, who successfully spearheaded the recent antisemitic bullying case against Brighton Secondary College in Melbourne, has joined forces with law firm Levitt Robinson in seeking Jewish staff and students at USYD to join the action.

They plan to seek damages for racial vilification, breach of duty of care, breaches of contract between academics and students, and Occupational Health and Safety breaches.

The AJN understands a successful action could set a precedent for other universities.

“The sustained and toxic nature of the attacks on Jews at Sydney University have had a grave effect on the psyche of students and academics alike,” Levitt Robinson senior partner Stewart Levitt said.

“Universities now seek to make deals with student and academic rabble-rousers … these students are led by academics who have goaded them to support the raising of the Hamas flag as a symbol of honour and virtue and to advocate for ongoing ‘Global Intifada’, not just against the State of Israel but directed against all its worldwide supporters, who overwhelmingly are, as the propagators of antisemitism would know, Jews who look to Israel as a national home for the Jewish people.

“The time has come for Jews, and all men and women of goodwill, to fight back … Let us all work together in this common cause.”

Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Alex Ryvchin said, “The fact that students and staff feel so let down by their universities that they have to contemplate private legal action brings shame to our higher education sector.

“Our universities have an obligation to provide a safe environment … Instead they seem to be more concerned with protecting fanatics intent on silencing and harassing anyone that refuses to go along with them.”

A USYD spokesperson said that the university was aware of the potential action “and will ­consider our response”.

“We remain in regular contact with the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies [JBD] and the Australasian Union of Jewish Students [AUJS], and held a productive meeting with them last week,” the spokesperson said.

“We outlined and clarified our position, which is very similar to offers made at leading universities from around the world, including Harvard and Melbourne, with a view to formally responding in writing.

“We never tolerate any form of racism, hate speech, threatening speech or unlawful harassment, including antisemitic or Islamophobic language or behaviour.”

Vice-chancellor Mark Scott last week pledged a thorough review of USYD’s ties with other universities in what was seen as a capitulation to the ostensibly pro-Palestinian encampment on the campus.

Following the meeting on Friday with the JBD and AUJS, described by JBD president David Ossip as “extremely robust and direct”, Scott this week sent encampment organisers a revised offer which was promptly rejected, with protesters on Wednesday threatening in a video to disrupt exams.

“By making an offer to the encampment, the University of Sydney has created a dangerous precedent and emboldened extremists who will never be appeased,” Ossip said.

“The university needs to stop capitulating to unrepresentative swill, remove the encampment and finally crack down on the antisemitism which abounds on campus.”

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