A New York-based Jewish newspaper has ranked U of T third in a list of the top 40 worst universities in North America for Jewish students.
U of T was one of four Canadian universities listed in “The 40 Worst Colleges for Jewish Students, 2016” released by The Algemeiner. McGill University placed fourth, McMaster University was 13th, and York University ranked 17th. The three other universities could not be reached for comment.
The Algemeiner’s Editor-in-Chief, Dovid Efune, told The Varsity that the rankings used a point grading system. Correspondingly, the schools with the highest amount of points would be considered the worst. These factors include anti-Semitic incidents on campus and the presence of “anti-Israel” students groups and faculty.
For U of T specifically, The Algemeiner cites the incidents of swastika vandalism on campus in October as well as the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union’s (UTGSU) ad-hoc committee on Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel.
However, Rob Nagus, Director of Hillel at U of T calls the list “misleading” and told The Varsity that the list “does not accurately represent the experience of most Jewish students on our campus.”
“The article focuses only on isolated anti-Semitic and anti-Israel incidences, which does not tell the complete story of the robust campus experience most Jewish students have. While certainly antisemitism and anti-Israel activity on our campus is troublesome, it is only one piece of a larger picture,” he said. “It does not account for the great work done by Hillel and others building a vibrant and dynamic Jewish student community with many educational, social justice and community themed programming and opportunities.”
Aidan Fishman, a second year law student, made similar remarks.
“Based on my own experiences and national data on antisemitism, I do not believe that antisemitism at U of T is as severe as the rankings would indicate,” he says. “However, antisemitism certainly exists at U of T, as exemplified by the wave of swastikas that targeted the campus in October. Student unions and the university administration must continue to work diligently in combating hatred against Jews.”
When asked about recent anti-Semitic events on campus, such as the graffiti found on campus in October, University of Toronto Director of Media Relations Althea Blackburn-Evans stated that they are “very rare occurrences on campus and those were dealt with very swiftly.”
On The Algemeiner’s condemnation of the BDS activism on campus, Blackburn-Evans told The Varsity, “Freedom of expression and freedom of speech are core values of any university, and we honour that to the extent that there are many groups on campus that have diverse, and sometimes controversial opinions on a variety of topics and we as a university are a place where dialogue can happen, but it has to happen in a respectful way.”
“It doesn’t mean we endorse particular opinions, but universities need to be a place where people can have a variety of views,” she continued.
The UTGSU’s ad-hoc BDS committee could not be reached for comment.