Professor Sir Steve Smith

Statement from the Vice-Chancellor on antisemitism

From Professor Sir Steve Smith, Vice-Chancellor

I want to make a clear statement about antisemitism, following the recent incidents whereby a swastika was found on a corridor door in a residence building, and a white rights sticker was found in a separate building. I do not know the intentions of those responsible, and of course we are trying to identify those individuals, but can I make it as clear as possible that I condemn any antisemitism without reservation. I am deeply upset and disappointed that these, and related, incidents have given the impression that this is a university that does not welcome, or is hostile to, Jewish students. I have been Vice-Chancellor here for 14 years and that is absolutely not my experience. But incidents like this are offensive not only to our Jewish students but also to the values of this university. So, at the risk of repeating myself, I unreservedly condemn any act of antisemitism. Incidents of this nature should not, and will not, be tolerated and we commit to eradicating any form of discrimination or harassment, wherever it may appear.

The University has an unwavering commitment to tolerance, respect and inclusivity. These qualities are at the very heart of who we are, what we achieve, and what we both expect and demand of everyone associated with Exeter – past, present and future. The overriding majority of our staff and students work tirelessly to ensure absolutely everyone feels welcomed, encouraged, supported and embraced, no matter their background, religion or nationality.

And yet, even one incident of discrimination, racism, or harassment is one too many. We must stand together against any form of racism, discrimination or bigotry, and be strengthened in our work to ensure everyone is treated with dignity and respect at all times.

One of the University’s defining values is "Community" – supporting and inspiring each other to be the best we can be. There are a vast array of initiatives and activities in place to ensure that this essential value is actively promoted, including the prominent '#WeAreAllExeter' campaign, which celebrates the diversity that exists on our campuses.

It is our personal and collective duty to ensure any incidents of abuse, no matter how rare, are stamped out immediately. We shall continue to ensure that everyone in, or associated with, the University feels safe, supported, accepted and welcomed. As Vice-Chancellor of the University I pledge to do everything I can to make sure that the University lives up to this commitment.

From Toby Gladwin, Guild President

The Students' Guild are passionate opponents of antisemitism in all forms; overt or subtle. Instances of discrimination in any form have to be relentlessly fought whenever they appear and the Guild is committed to this with our campus-wide '#WeAreAllExeter' campaign, which has been running since the beginning of January.

The recently reported instances of antisemitism on campus horrified but emboldened us to extend the work we have been doing throughout the year with Jewish Society and Friends of Israel; to ensure they are able to organise activities free from the fear of persecution and intimidation. We believe the environment we have at Exeter is one that actively encourages free speech and debate, but we are very clear that criticism of the actions of states should never make individuals or communities feel persecuted on the basis of their faith or nationality. We believe in dialogue, debate and open discussion but we will never compromise our values when it comes to ridding our community of discrimination wherever and whenever it happens.

We look forward to continuing our positive work with faith-based societies in the coming weeks and months to help build a community that is welcoming and inclusive of all Exeter students - a community that reaffirms We Are All Exeter.

Date: 17 February 2017

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