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U of T launches new working group to tackle anti-Semitism on campus

Group will review university policies, make recommendations to university
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Hillel U of T is based out of the Wolfond Centre. EMMA TALLON/THE VARSITY
Hillel U of T is based out of the Wolfond Centre. EMMA TALLON/THE VARSITY

U of T recently launched a new working group to combat anti-Semitism on campus, which will consult with members of the U of T community. 

The group will try to create an inclusive and welcoming environment for Jewish members of the university community, review current U of T policy, develop new initiatives, and work with U of T administration to recommend actions the university can take to improve education about anti-Semitism.

The Varsity has reported on a few incidents of alleged anti-Semitism on campus in recent years, such as a dispute between the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union and Hillel U of T, as well as an incident of vandalism on campus.

Creation of the working group

The group’s aim is to examine anti-Semitic incidents and, through consultation and recommendations, prevent them from happening again. When reached out to for comment, a U of T spokesperson did not respond to a question on whether the working group was created in response to any specific incidents.

“The working group will review the processes and practices in place to address anti-Semitism on U of T’s three campuses and develop a framework to support the university’s response to this issue,” a U of T spokesperson wrote in an email to The Varsity.

The members of the group include professors from different faculties at U of T, members of the Division of Human Resources & Equity, and members from the Temerty Faculty of Medicine’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. The group is led by Arthur Ripstein, a professor at the Faculty of Law and in the Department of Philosophy.

Operations of the working group

The group will work with U of T administration to propose new programs and initiatives to eliminate anti-Semitism from campus. The working group will present a final report to U of T’s president, vice-president and provost, and vice-president human resources & equity. 

Ripstein said that the group will emphasize a collaborative approach, encouraging feedback from the community. “Our main work will be, in the first instance, listening to and seeking input from members of the university community,” said Ripstein in an interview with U of T News.

Hillel Ontario, a local affiliate of Hillel International ― the largest Jewish student organization in the world ― welcomed the new group in an article on its website. Marc Newburgh, the chief executive officer of Hillel Ontario, said in the article, “Across the nine campuses we serve, Hillel Ontario is committed to working with all university administrations to champion the voices of Jewish students.” 

In an email to The Varsity, Rob Nagus, the senior director of Hillel U of T, wrote, “It is our hope that this Working Group will identify proactive ways in which the university can better support Jewish students, and recommend decisive consequences for those who promote antisemitic rhetoric on campus.”

Ripstein, members of the working group, and the U of T Anti-Racism and Cultural Diversity office did not respond to The Varsity’s request for comment.