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University of Texas Student Gov’t Passes IHRA Resolution

Jewish Journal

March 16, 2021

Photo by: Larry D. Moore | Wikimedia Commons

The student government at the University of Texas (UT) at Austin unanimously passed a resolution endorsing the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism on March 9.

The resolution, which was obtained by the Journal, states that adopting IHRA became necessary following a spate of recent anti-Semitic incidents on campus, including a Jewish fraternity house being spray-painted with the words “Samys R Jews LOL, Samys’ Js Rape” and a then-professor comparing Jews to bacteria in an April 2020 Twitter thread.

“In light of recent anti-Jewish hatred, vandalism, and endangerment, the University of Texas Student Government wholeheartedly issues its support for its Jewish students; and, be it resolved, that the University of Texas Student Government pledges to combat future anti-Jewish hatred by adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s ‘Working Definition of Antisemitism’ and its included examples, which have worldwide bipartisan support, including that now from the newly elected Biden administration,” the resolution states.

Jordan Cope, a member of the student government, told the Journal, “While the university has been quick to address other forms of hatred, regardless of whether it actually occurred on campus, it has largely neglected the incidents that targeted its Jewish students. It is an unfortunate double standard that we have sought to address previously through student petition and now through this legislation, which we hope will create a more urgent precedent for our student body and university to better address anti-Semitism.”

He added that the passage of the resolution “is a victory for the greater American Jewish community as it is for that of our campus, especially given the size of our university student population, which exceeds 50,000 students. Such [a] passage has emboldened the legitimacy of the IHRA definition, and we hope that it will inspire Jewish students to more proactively define, confront, and raise awareness to antisemitism in their communities.”

Texas Hillel wrote in a March 10 Facebook post that they were grateful to the UT student government for passing the resolution. “Texas Hillel looks forward to partnering with our student leaders to promote an inclusive and welcoming campus environment and to help ensure that antisemitism has no place on the Forty Acres. Thank you to the students who shared their experiences and brought their perspectives to this process.”

Kenneth L. Marcus, who heads the Brandeis Center, said in a statement to the Journal, “Anti-Semitism is too often swept under the rug by university administrators, particularly when it is disguised as anti-Zionism. This is why formal definitions are critical. Unfortunately, U.S. universities have lagged behind their European counterparts when it comes to adopting the IHRA Working Definition of Anti-Semitism, one internationally agreed-upon definition in this field.

“We commend UT students for taking matters into their own hands and serving as leaders in combating rising anti-Semitism on their campus. We urge the UT administration to follow its students’ leadership and adopt IHRA and its contemporary examples both for educational purposes and when investigating and responding to incidents of harassment and discrimination to determine whether such conduct is motivated by anti-Semitic animus or bias.”

Carly Gammill, director of the StandWithUs Center for Combating Antisemitism, similarly said in a statement to the Journal, “StandWithUs celebrates the unanimous passing of a bill recognizing the IHRA definition of antisemitism by UT’s student government. This is a wonderful first step in committing to combat antisemitism and acknowledge the actual experiences of Jewish students at UT. We congratulate Jewish and pro-Israel students for their efforts. We look forward to learning about the additional steps that will be taken by UT’s student government to ensure and uphold an inclusive campus environment for Jewish students.”

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