Sheffield Hallam University has been told to pay a disabled Jewish student thousands of pounds in compensation for not properly considering his complaint about offensive social media posts from the University’s Palestine Society.
The recent graduate, who has not been named, was told that his complaints were unfounded when he first raised concerns of anti-Semitism with the Student’s Union.
However, the Office of the Independent Adjudicator has ruled that the university “failed to properly turn its mind to the question of whether [he] had experienced harassment as a result of certain aspects of PalSoc’s social media activity”.
Britain’s fourth largest university was told to pay the student £3,000, comprising £2,500 for the main complaint plus £250 for a nine-month delay and £250 for “the manner in which the University questioned [the student’s] ownership of the complaint”.
The complaint was made after the student saw posts by the PalSoc highlighting Israel’s actions in Gaza and the West Bank, which he deemed offensive.
However, the OIA said: “We have not reached a finding that aspects of PalSoc’s social media were anti-Semitic or that [the student] was racially or religiously harassed.” It added: “It is not for the OIA to determine the issues in the debate about where criticism of Israel crosses into anti-Semitism.
Both the Student’s Union and the University considered the complaint, which had asked that the Palestine Society be “shut down if it has acted outside the objectives for which it was ratified”.
In its investigation, the University commented on the student’s 50-page submission of evidence, which it said was “not always presented accurately, consistently and completely”.
This week, the student said: “I am pleased with the decision. I hope it inspires Jewish and pro-Israel students to report incidents of discrimination, and that it sends a clear message to universities that this issue cannot be brushed aside.”
His appeal was supported by David Lewis, a retired lawyer, and Lesley Klaff, the University’s Jewish chaplain.
Lewis said: “This decision could really help Jewish and pro-Israel students to complain effectively to their universities about some of the worst abuses by anti-Zionists. No British university can now reproduce the cavalier and indifferent way in which Sheffield Hallam and its students’ union treated this complaint without exposing itself to severe criticism and a compensation award.”
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