USYD’s capitulation

Pressure is mounting on Education Minister Jason Clare to hold an inquiry into when USYD became aware of Hizb ut-Tahrir's infiltration of its campus.

Photo: Screenshot
Photo: Screenshot

An agreement between the University of Sydney (USYD) and the Sydney University Muslim Students Association (SUMSA) to fully disclose USYD’s research agreements has been condemned as “appeasement”.

The deal reportedly allows SUMSA and fellow protest group Stand4PalestineAus to nominate a representative to a working group that will review the university’s investment policies, among other concessions, in exchange for vacating their ostensibly pro-Palestinian encampment on campus.

SUMSA shared its compact with USYD on Instagram in a post collaborating with Stand4PalestineAus, whose ties to Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir were exposed on Nine’s 60 Minutes.

Pressure is mounting on Education Minister Jason Clare to hold an inquiry into when USYD became aware of Hizb ut-Tahrir’s infiltration of its campus, amid reports vice-chancellor Mark Scott’s chief of staff was alerted on May 6.

Prompted by The AJN, Clare did not respond directly on the deal, stating more generally, “There is no place for the poison of antisemitism or any sort of racism in our universities or anywhere else. That’s why I have asked the Race Discrimination Commissioner to examine the prevalence and impact of racism, including antisemitism, at universities and make recommendations to the government about how we can ensure a safe environment for students.”

Meanwhile, a previously deleted statement by Hizb ut-Tahrir has resurfaced in which the organisation applauded the October 7 slaughter of Israelis and urged Muslim nations to eliminate Israel.

According to the Australian Academic Alliance Against Antisemitism (5A), the USYD-SUMSA deal involves USYD’s disclosure of its defence and security-related activities and convening a working group to review industries in terms of ethics and social governance. These issues are to be examined in coordination with SUMSA and the encampment group.

In an unprecedented joint statement, six organisations – the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBD), Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS), Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA), 5A, and the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) said they were “appalled and deeply concerned” by the agreement.

“Based on our interactions to date, we have lost confidence in the capacity of the university to provide for the physical, cultural and psycho-social safety of Jewish students and staff members,” they said.

“The university entered into an agreement with a group acting in concert with the extremist Hizb ut-Tahrir organisation to participate in a working group to review the university’s investments and defence and security-related research activities. No other university in Australia has gone this far.

“Leading national security experts … have rightly raised serious questions about the university’s capacity to conduct sensitive national security research in light of this agreement.”

The groups say they had rejected an offer made after the agreement with SUMSA to also participate in the working group.

“The process is in our view a sham and we will have nothing to do with it,” they said.

ECAJ co-CEO Alex Ryvchin told The AJN, “If your conduct is disruptive and threatening enough, the university will not only negotiate with you, it will give in to your demands.”

JBD president David Ossip said the university has “hideously capitulated”. ZFA president Jeremy Leibler called it “flatly outrageous”. AIJAC executive director Colin Rubenstein predicted extremists will now have “a permanent privileged role in reshaping university culture”.

Two academics in 5A, Associate Professor Andy Smidt of Southern Cross University and Dr Sarah Aamidor of USYD, stated, “The decision to capitulate to a mob of protesters with alleged links to a terrorist organisation is outrageous. It is dangerous and sets a precedent that those who shout loudest will win. Further, this deal was struck behind closed doors.”

Australian Jewish Association CEO Robert Gregory said, “Jewish students and staff should reconsider their positions at the University of Sydney.”

Human-rights lawyer Stewart Levitt, a senior partner in Sydney legal firm Levitt Robinson, which is launching a class action against USYD on behalf of Jewish students next month, said the deal “only causes us to redouble our efforts”.

Levitt said the government needs to demand full disclosure of funding ties at tertiary institutions, which “make themselves continually attractive to foreign investors”. US and British universities “have received very substantial funding from Saudi and Islamist organisations and there’s always strings attached”.

Shadow Education Minister, Senator Sarah Henderson said Clare “must establish an urgent government inquiry into the University of Sydney’s failures to protect students and staff from the safety threats posed by Hizb ut-Tahrir”.

Senator James Paterson, Shadow Minister for Home Affairs, said, “Students associated with an extreme organisation which is banned overseas have no right to determine an academic’s research priorities or dictate a university’s investments.”

Liberal MP Julian Leeser called Scott’s SUMSA deal “a terrible capitulation”.

Australasian Union of Jewish Students president Noah Loven said USYD “negotiated with groups with extremist links while deceiving Jewish students engaging in good faith with the university”.

A USYD spokesperson stated, “Our priority has always been a peaceful resolution and we are pleased our proposal has been accepted … [It] emphasises transparency around partnerships and does not include a review of our research partnerships, including those with our valued defence and security industry partners. We are not cutting ties with Israel, Israeli universities or Israeli companies.

“We have been assured by police that we would be notified about any relevant information on the encampment that related to any extremist, violent or radicalised behaviour.”

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