Quash Anti-Semitism, Universities To Be Told

The government is due today to unveil steps universities must take to stamp out campus anti-semitism. The communities minister, Phil Woolas, is expected to announce that the police should use existing powers under the Public Order Act 1986 to prosecute Islamic extremists, and others, if they make any speeches on campus which are anti-semitic.

Universities are expected to be told to keep a record of any complaints about anti-semitic behaviour, which would include statements or speeches made by students. However, it appeared that the government has dropped plans, first revealed by the Guardian last October, to urge university academics to spy on their students as part of a clampdown on extremism on campus.

The announcement by Mr Woolas, which appeared in editions of the Independent yesterday, will be in response to the parliamentary inquiry into anti-semitism published last September.

The report, by MPs on the all-party parliamentary group against anti-semitism, highlighted problems on university campuses. The report said it was unreasonable for universities to boycott academics who work in Israel because that was an affront to academic freedom. The MPs added that university vice-chancellors’ response to dealing with the problem was “patchy” and it called on them to tackle the issue “vigorously”.

Universities UK, which represents vice-chancellors and has been involved in discussions with the government about campus political extremism, refused to comment on any government proposals ahead of today’s announcement.

But any attempt to recruit lecturers into a “policing” role is likely to be rejected after the University and College Union warned in October its members would not be “sucked into a kind of anti-Muslim McCarthyism”.