CW: antisemitism, racism

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

St Peter’s College JCR last night passed a motion condemning the college’s decision to continue with an event with the filmmaker Ken Loach, despite Jewish students raising concerns about Loach’s history of antisemitism.

The motion, passed at an Emergency Meeting yesterday evening, began by outlining the controversy which has developed regarding the event, noting that Loach has “a history of blatant antisemitism…per the IHRA definition of antisemitism” and has spread antisemitic conspiracies, previously comparing “contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis”.

The motion moved on to criticise the response of the college’s leadership to the concerns raised by Jewish students at St Peter’s over the weekend. The motion argued that the college claimed to be “unaware of Loach’s past comments, despite their being widely reported in the media”, as well as putting the “burden of proving Loach’s antisemitism onto Jewish Peterites when this is a matter of record”. 

Next, the JCR addressed the social media statement made by St Peter’s College yesterday evening. This statement, the JCR agreed, “failed to apologise for the entirely avoidable distress caused to Jewish students” and “sought to excuse Loach’s antisemitism”. Furthermore, the statement “failed to outline any steps which could be taken to avoid similar situations occurring in the future”.

The JCR also noted that “scores of British Jewish organisations have condemned St Peter’s College for its invitation of Ken Loach”, adding that St Peter’s College “failed to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day this year”.

After outlining these events and heavily criticising the college, the JCR set out its beliefs on the issue. These included that:

  • “St Peter’s College failed in its duty of care to Jewish students in inviting a known apologist for antisemitism without prior student consultation.”
  • “The College’s failure to apologise for its insensitive and ignorant handling of Jewish students’ concerns caused even more harm to Jewish students who were left feeling antagonised and unwelcome”.
  • “The Master’s and College’s statements to students and the public added fuel to the fire.”
  • “It is impossible to separate Ken Loach’s filmmaking from his views, including his offensive history of antisemitic remarks”.
  • “St Peter’s College has failed to live by its commitment to ‘stand against all forms of discrimination’”. 
  • “A ‘free and open academic community’ is mutually exclusive with the platforming of individuals whose bigoted views cause active harm to others on account of their protected characteristics.”

Finally, the motion set out the JCR’s next steps. These were to urge “all students to boycott this event” as well as condemning “in the strongest terms” the event and “the College’s and the Master’s inconsiderate and insensitive response” to concerns raised prior to the event. Moreover the JCR stated its desire to apologise “on behalf of the College to all Jewish students”, to pledge “its active support to all Jewish students”, and to stand “in solidarity with Jewish students at St Peter’s and in Oxford in the face of endemic antisemitism more broadly”.

The Blue has seen an email sent by St Peter’s College Master Professor Judith Buchanan to students yesterday. While confirming that the event would carry on as planned, and offer a discussion of Loach’s films, Professor Buchanan added that the college “reaffirms strongly its commitment to stand against all forms of discrimination and to supporting its students wherever there is discrimination”. Buchanan said she supports a “subsequent event” where the college could “address directly some of the specific issues that have been raised by this”. This would involve the college’s Equality and Diversity Lead, but it is unclear as yet as to what form this might take.

The Blue has contacted Buchanan’s office for comment.

Mitchell Marshall

Mitch (he/ him) is Editor-in-Chief for Trinity term 2021 as well as a long-suffering Sunderland fan, keen runner and general sports obsessive. His other interests include indie music, arthouse cinema, and coffee.