13. Letter dated 13 January 2005, from
The Open University
A report in the Jewish Chronicle on 17
December 2004 refers to evidence placed before the Home Affairs
Select Committee by the Union of Jewish Students at a meeting
held on 14 December 2004.
In that article, Mr Danny Stone, Campaigns Organiser
at the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) is quoted as saying:
"One of the worst cases of web-based anti-Semitism
[ ] was found on The Open University's site"
"Jewish students no longer use the web-site
through fear of attack" said Mr Stone, "The University's
reaction has been slow and generally unhelpful."
The University considers these remarks to be
inaccurate and misleading. We understand that they are drawn from
more detailed written evidence already submitted to your Inquiry
and I have been asked to write to the Select Committee to ensure
that the record is corrected.
The facts are as follows:
1. The Open University has never had a complaint
of anti-Semitismor indeed of any other religious or racist
abuseabout its website.
2. The complaint that Mr Stone refers to
was made 19 months ago, by a student and concerned a closed student
e-conference. This facility is only open to students of the University
and is moderated by the Open University Students' Association.
It is the equivalent of a seminar discussion at a conventional
3. Mr Stone took up the complaint on behalf
4. In fact, much of the material cited by
Mr Stone related not to issues of religion but was about the modern
state of Israel and the Palestinian issue.
5. Items that were anti-Semitic were promptly
removed by the moderator of the conference.
6. Disciplinary action was taken in 2003
against the perpetrators under the University's Code of Computing
Conduct and all students were reminded of the terms of the Code.
7. The complaint was dealt with fully and
in a reasonable timescale by our Pro-Vice Chancellor with responsibility
8. As a result of the report in the Jewish
Chronicle, the University has contacted Mr Stone. He has confirmed
that the incident was dealt with effectively and recognises that
the University has the right to refuse to remove content judged
to be reasonable debate.
The Open University's commitment to equality
and diversity has been widely recognised and we take pride in
our track record of enabling and supporting a diverse community
of learners from all sections of the population.
The Open University has no tolerance of religious
or racist abuse. We deplore the comments that were removed from
this particular conference, but defend the freedom of conscience
and speech on social and political issues such as the Israel-Palestine
I trust this goes some way to correcting any
mis-impression that may have been given to the Committee in evidence.
The University has written separately to the
Editor of the Jewish Chronicle and to the Union of Jewish
Head of Political Liaison