Nearly two-thirds of Jewish students have encountered incidents of antisemitism during their time at university.
Additionally, more than half of Jewish students have chosen to conceal their Jewish identity while on campus to avoid antisemitism, and one in five students have avoided campus altogether.
These are the key findings of a nationwide survey of Jewish university students commissioned by the Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) with the support of the Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS), Scanlon Foundation, Besen Family Foundation and World Zionist Organisation.
The survey also indicates that 76 per cent of Jewish students believe adopting a formal definition of antisemitism within universities could boost confidence in reporting incidents.
“These results should be met with alarm by Australian universities and the government. For years, Jewish student claims about antisemitism on campus have largely been falling on deaf ears,” ZFA president Jeremy Leibler said. “This survey is a wake-up call.”
AUJS president Alissa Foster explained that over the past few years she has received daily stories from Jewish students and has had “countless meetings with university administrations who ‘strongly condemn’ antisemitism”.
“The survey data is not shocking to me at all, but it confirms what we already knew – Jewish students are experiencing antisemitism on campus, they are forced into hiding their identities and universities are not doing anything to address the problem,” she said.
“We need more than strong words and apologies. We know ignorance is a problem, but ignorance needs to be met with education. We are in desperate need of a cultural shift from the top down in our universities. We need a revision of reporting policies and procedures, and accessible support made available to all students. Most importantly, the first step comes from universities recognising that antisemitism exists.”
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, who appeared on ABC’s 7:30 discussing the survey results on Monday night, said, “Our legislation to ban the Nazi hate symbols sends the clearest possible signal that we have no tolerance for antisemitism and no tolerance for anyone who seeks to glorify Nazism or spread antisemitism.”
The survey carried out by the Social Research Centre also found that when asked about the most impactful incident of antisemitism in the last 12 months, 29 per cent of students said that staff participated and 70 per cent reported that staff were present but not involved and ignored the incident.
In a joint statement, the co-chairs of the Parliamentary Friends of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), Member for Macnamara Josh Burns, Member for Berowra Julian Leeser and Member for Wentworth Allegra Spender, said they are “deeply concerned” by the findings of the Jewish University Experience Survey.
“Every individual has the right to pursue their education in an environment free from discrimination, bigotry and hatred,” they said.
The statement also commended the universities that have taken “proactive steps” to address this issue by adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism.
“We urge other universities to follow suit and implement the IHRA definition, as it provides a clear framework for identifying and understanding antisemitism in its different forms.”
Leibler told The AJN, “We are calling on the Albanese government to establish a working group to assess what actions universities, and state and federal governments should take on this appalling situation.”
Member for Caulfield David Southwick moved a notice of motion in the Victorian Parliament on Tuesday that “calls on the Minister for Education to bring university vice-chancellors, Jewish students and leaders together to find a solution”.
“No student should feel unsafe,” Southwick said, adding, “The hate Jewish students face on campus must stop.”