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Ryerson University Defines Anti-Semitism


Ali Rosenblatt, Brandeis Blog

August 2, 2017
 

Last week, Ryerson University, located in Toronto, Canada, printed a definition of anti-Semitism that the Ryerson Student Union (RSU) had adopted earlier this year, making it official school policy. Back in March, the RSU adopted the definition of anti-Semitism as found in the “Ottawa Protocol.”

RyersonThe Ottawa Protocol reaffirms the EUMC’s working definition of anti-Semitism – the EUMC now being recognized as the Fundamental Rights Agency (“FRA”). The EUMC working definition is similar to the definition used by the U.S. State Department. These definitions account for anti-Semitism that may hide under the guise of Israel criticism, among other forms. In addition to this affirmation, the Ottawa Protocol also advises that universities should use the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism and that “there should be zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind.” According to the Centre for Israel and Jewish affairs, a Canadian Jewish advocacy organization, Ryerson was the first Canadian University to adopt the Ottawa Protocol.

Students Supporting Israel (SSI) and StandWithUs Canada spearheaded this effort on Ryerson’s campus. The new definition came just in time, right after reports that the head of a university program “resigned over anti-Semitic tweets.” Setting a definition for anti-Semitism is an important step for a university to affirm its commitment to standing up for its students in the face of anti-Semitism. This sentiment was shared by RSU president Obaid Ullah, who wrote that “Jewish community members had lost faith in the RSU and did not feel supported” prior to this decision to create a definition.

In the United States, several schools’ student governments have passed similar resolutions. Such resolutions were accomplished by the student government’s at San Diego State University, East Carolina University (ECU), UC Berkeley, UCLA, UCSB, Capital University, and Indiana University. As told by a member of the Student Government Association at ECU, the students had decided to “take a stand with the Jewish community at [ECU]” by passing a resolution to define anti-Semitism in line with the definition adopted by the U.S. State Department.


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Over 50% of Jewish American college students report that they experienced or witnessed anti-Semitism on their campuses during the 2013-2014 academic year. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has announced that campus anti-Semitism “is a serious problem which warrants further attention.” Campus anti-Semitism can include subjecting Jewish students to different treatment, harassment, violence or a hostile environment. In some cases, campus anti-Semitism is related to anti-Israel sentiment. In other cases, it is not. For most purposes, we define anti-Semitism according to the U.S. Department of State definition of anti-Semitism. .
 
 
 
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Ruth R. Wisse
Ruth R. Wisse is the Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University, and has taught at McGill, Stanford, New York, Hebrew and Tel Aviv universities.
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