Almost two thirds of Australian Jewish students have experienced antisemitism on campus: survey

More than half of the 563 students surveyed say they have hidden their Jewish identity because of fear of antisemitism.

A nationwide survey of Australian university students has revealed widespread antisemitism on Australian university campuses. The survey of 563 Jewish students found 64% had experienced antisemitism at university.

Of those surveyed, 57% said they had hidden their Jewish identity, such as by avoiding wearing clothing or jewellery that identifies them. But only 11% always did so, 31% doing so sometimes and 14% rarely.

Very few students regularly avoid campus due to antisemitism, although 5% said they do sometimes and 13% rarely.

The 396 students who responded were self-selected from 3330 surveys sent to students through the AUJS database and through an opt-in link, raising concerns that the sample was biased, because those who had experienced antisemitism were most likely to respond.

The survey was carried out by the Social Research Centre and commissioned by the Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS) and the Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) and supported by the Scanlon Foundation.

Most incidents passed without official complaints: only 14% of those who experienced antisemitism had lodged a complaint after their most impactful experience. The top barriers to complaining are a belief that complaining would not make a difference (61%) and that the university would not think the incident was serious enough (48%). Those who did complain were largely dissatisfied with the response received from their university.

Three quarters of respondents said they would be more confident making a complaint if their university adopted a formal definition of antisemitism.

The most common experiences of antisemitism were:

     People or events that made you feel intimidated because of your Jewish identity (47%).

     Antisemitism based on perceptions of Jewish money, power or influence (37%)

     Someone comparing Israel to Nazi Germany (37%)

     Antisemitism based on religion or race (31%)

     Someone denying or minimising the Holocaust (30%)

     Being involuntarily singled out, or excluded, because of matters relating to Israel (25%)

University staff were identified as active participants on 29% of occasions. Further, around 70% of those who indicated that university staff were present, though not active participants, went on to state that this antisemitic behaviour was ignored by these staff members.

 AUJS President Alissa Foster said, “The results of the survey reinforce what I hear daily as president of AUJS. Jewish students are facing antisemitism on campus, they are concealing their identity and our universities have been failing Jewish students. I sincerely hope decision makers sit down with this data and reflect on the severity of the problem.

“Jewish students deserve to feel that they are seen, heard and represented on campus, and as concerning as these results are, I believe they must be used to start a long-overdue conversation.”

ZFA President Jeremy Leibler said, “These results should be met with alarm by Australian universities and the government. For years, Jewish student claims about antisemitism on campus have largely been falling on deaf ears. This survey is a wake-up call. It is unconscionable that over half of Australia’s Jewish university students have felt they had to hide their identity in order to protect themselves. We are calling on the Albanese Government to establish a working group to assess what actions universities and state and federal governments should take on this appalling situation.”

Scanlon Foundation CEO Anthea Hancocks said, “The Scanlon Foundation recognises the very insidious impact that antisemitism, and discrimination more broadly, can have on the ability for individuals to trust others and institutions. Discrimination for the individual victim undermines their sense of worth and their ability to fully participate in our society. This survey has provided insights into the extent and impact of antisemitism in universities. It is essential that we use this information to reflect on our systems and responses to negative experiences and make changes to create more accepting and welcoming environments.”

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Full report: Jewish University Experience Survey (Social Research Centre)