21 January 2010

David Hirsh’s talk at UCU: Hear, Hear!

I wouldn't quote the speech itself, you have to read it in its entirety. Instead, I've chosen to copy here a comment by a person who was present at the meeting:

I attended the seminar today (18th January 2009) in Brighton where David Hirsh presented the above paper – to the evident extreme discomfort of Sally Hunt and Tom Hickey of the UCU executive. David did a brilliant and brave job and I hope that he continues to find the physical and mental strength to continue this fight for truth and fair play in the UCU. I saw how tough that is – and I thank him for doing it.

The event was billed by the UCU as an “Anti-Semitism seminar to coincide with Holocaust Memorial Day”. To that end it was publicised via the “university info” email channel to 21,000 Brighton University students and 2,500 staff. Furthermore, presumably, 2,100 staff and 12,500 students at Sussex University would also have been sent a similar email suggesting that they might attend this free event.

Out of these nearly 40,000 invited members of the two Brighton Universities, I would guess that less than a dozen turned up. So much for the level of interest in Holocaust Day shown by the target audience. Instead of academics, the bulk of seminar attendees were other Brighton folk, probably hastily allowed in when registrations failed to materialise from the intended audience. These divided fairly equally between older local Jewish residents and young activist members of the Socialist Workers Party. There may have been about twenty in each camp. The younger group were clearly there to give vocal support their colleague – and local leader of the SWP – Tom Hickey. As such the subject for discussion frequently moved in the direction of “Zionism” and the wrongs done by Israel to Gaza.

As a fig leaf to cover the UCU’s frequently attempted academic boycott of Israel campaign, I think that this day of seminars failed. David Hirsh very successfully removed this ‘cover’ from Sally Hunt and Tom Hickey.

The biggest failure of day of Seminars promoted by the UCU was the evident apathy of nearly 40,000 staff and students of Brighton’s two universities. They were just not interested in Holocaust Memorial Day.

(I am not an academic nor a member of the UCU)


Dick Stanley said...

I liked Geras's response best. Though I must say I wonder why academics join unions to begin with. It's not exactly coal mining, now, is it?

snoopythegoon said...

I guess it's a British tradition, from the time of the industrial revolution or whatever. Specifically this union (UCU) does a bit less than nothing for its members.

maryt/theteach said...

Snoopy, here's a link about a plane being diverted in the US because an orthodox Jewish kid was using tefillin on the plane and people thought he was a terrorist...

It's been reported by MSN, CNN, BBC etc.

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Sarah said...

Jobs are under threat in HE because of huge cuts in funding. Most UCU members are concerned about practical matters - pay, conditions and job security - but the UCU continues to prefer to spend its time and money on other things.

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