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JSoc and UJS release statement condemning antisemitic graffiti at Regent’s Park College

Oxford University Jewish Society (JSoc) alongside the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) have released a joint statement condemning the recent discovery of antisemitic graffiti at Regent’s Park College “reported by students to be Nazi swastikas.” They urged the University administration to “show zero tolerance to the antisemitic and hostile atmosphere which has been allowed to flourish at Oxford University.”

On 9th May, Oxford University’s Vice-Chancellor, Irene Tracey, attended a meeting with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to “protect Jewish students” and combat antisemitism on UK university campuses. Representatives from UJS were also in attendance. Their current statement goes on to say that: “Since October 7th, we have seen an overwhelming surge in antisemitism on campus, and this has only increased in recent weeks. Shamefully our experiences have been denied by JCR and MCR motions accusing us of ‘weaponising antisemitism’.” 

Several statements of solidarity with the Oxford Action for Palestine encampment passed recently by college JCRs have referenced the “weaponisation of antisemitism” in relation with these demonstrations, including that accusations of antisemitism are “wholly at odds of reality of these encampments, which are safe spaces for Jews, Muslims, peoples of other faiths and none.” 

Olly De Herrera, president of OXJSoc, told Cherwell: “Yesterday (May 21nd) we became aware of two incidents of antisemitic graffiti discovered in the bathrooms of Regent’s Park College, which were highlighted to Regent’s students via an internal email from the College.” Also clarifying that “we were told by students at Regent’s Park College that the graffiti was Swastikas.” 

Sir Malcolm Evans, Principal of Regent’s Park College, spoke to Cherwell on May 23rd and officially confirmed that the discovered graffiti was “in the form of a number of swastikas.” 

On midday of Tuesday May 21nd, members of Regent’s Park College were addressed in an email by current Dean Dr. Lynn Robson regarding the incident: “Anti-semitic graffiti was drawn on the walls of two cubicles in the toilets adjacent to the Hall, and has now been removed.” It goes on to state that: “It is hard not to connect this to the impending votes on motions that have been put forward to JCR and MCR.”

Robson reaffirmed support for “freedom of speech, and academic freedom within this College and the wider University … which is conducted respectfully and does not amount to harassment, violates the dignity of others, or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.” 

She also warned that “we do not tolerate any instances of abuse, offensive behaviour, open or covert hostility, directed at others on the grounds of race, religion or belief … This and any other instances of such behaviour will warrant Serious Disciplinary Action under Section 5 of the Student Disciplinary Policy.” All students were advised to contact the Dean directly, or the college’s Harassment Officers in case of having experienced or witnessed any such behaviour. 

Maria Jabal, a Junior Dean in Regents Park College, followed up Robson’s email by providing a link to an open letter hosted on the website Oxford since 7/10 to all students addressed in the original communication. Her message read: “I’m attaching an open letter to the university on behalf of Jewish students, academics and friends which I think would be helpful for you to be aware of.” 

Ten minutes later, Robson sent an additional email again addressed to the entire College community explaining that: “The email from Maria Jabal was sent in error, and from her personal account. ”

On Thursday May 23, Cherwell received a full statement from Sir Malcolm Evans, Principal of Regent’s Park, following the public statement of condemnation delivered by JSoc and UJS:

“Mutual respect and toleration and the freedom of religion or belief is a central pillar of Baptist identity and thus foundational to the ethos of Regent’s. This is reflected in much of the work of the College and, speaking personally, is a subject to which I have devoted much of my professional academic life.

Early this week anti-Semitic graffiti in the form of a number of swastikas was found within the College. This is deeply shocking and is a matter that the College, and I personally, take extremely seriously. Such behaviour has no place here and cannot be considered acceptable under any circumstances. We do not know who did this or why it was done; but be assured that appropriate action will be taken should we become aware of the identity of those responsible – as it would in respect of any such display of hatred or hostility towards members of our College, or others.

Steps have already been taken to provide support and we will continue to assist all students who have been affected by what has occurred. The College has always prided itself on offering a welcoming and inclusive community – something which has recently been confirmed in a JCR survey of student life. I hope that we are able to learn from what has happened by being reminded of the need to be understanding and supportive of each other as we share in our common life together. I am confident that the values that underpin the College will continue to guide us as we do so.” 

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