No Safe Spaces For Jewish Students At Universities

Written by:
2 May 2024
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Originally Appeared In

This article was originally published in Australian Financial Review on or about 2 May 2024 and was written by the author in their capacity as a contributor for that publication. 

It has been republished on the IPA website with permission. The views expressed are those of the author alone.


Vice chancellors say what’s happening on campuses here is a million miles away from what’s happening in the US. That’s a statement of wishful thinking – not reality.


If the absence of students taking to university furniture with hammers is “peaceful” (as happened at New York’s Columbia University), then Mark Scott, the vice chancellor of the University of Sydney, is correct.

In Australia, the “pro-Palestinian” protests that seem to merge seamlessly into unashamed support for Hamas don’t yet compete with what’s happening at American colleges. Riot police aren’t yet storming encampments and firing tear gas into crowds. Hundreds of demonstrators have been arrested at universities across the United States in the past few days.

Only someone as willing as Scott to avert their gaze could claim, as he has, that, “What we are seeing in Sydney is a million miles away from what we are seeing at Columbia University”. According to Scott, there “is nothing on any Australian university that represents anything like the aggressive confrontation, violence and widespread police action that we are seeing on American campuses”.

That’s a statement of wishful thinking – not reality.

At Scott’s own university, primary school students on a “kids’ excursion” chanted “5,6,7,8 Israel is a terrorist state”. At the Australian National University in Canberra, the student union’s education officer, when asked on ABC radio whether he condemned Hamas, replied: “No, I do not condemn.”

Meanwhile, at the University of Queensland, protesters flew the flag of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a designated terrorist organisation. The flag has since been taken down.

Last year, the Palaszczuk government passed a law creating a crime punishable by a maximum of six months’ imprisonment for displaying prohibited symbols that might reasonably cause someone to feel “menaced, harassed or offended”. It’s not known whether the law will be applied to the protesters at the University of Queensland.

It’s in the nature of hatred that eventually it’s reciprocated. Americans are now coming to hate their colleges.

Both the University of Sydney and the ANU have a “safe space” room for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, while the University of Queensland has one for its LGBTQ community. There are no “safe spaces” at those universities for Jewish students, or for anyone else, Jewish or not, who knows anything about the history of Europe in the 20th century.

There have been student protests in America and Australia before, but this time, it’s different. Conservative academics in the 1960s were outnumbered at universities, but they weren’t extinct.

Similarly, the ideas of “Western civilisation”, “liberal democracy” and “freedom of speech” were certainly being questioned, but half a century ago, it wasn’t yet the objective of academia to eliminate these concepts from the public discourse.

In 2017, the University of Sydney branded its undergraduate programs with the slogan “Unlearn”. Which says it all.

America’s involvement in the Iraq war is estimated to have led to some 200,000 civilian deaths in Iraq since 2003, but it didn’t result in anything close to the sort of reaction caused by the war in Gaza. The students protesting at America’s elite colleges might hate the US, but they hate Israel more. In Australia, the situation is not much different.

There will be consequences from what’s happening. In the US the game is up for higher education. American universities have spent decades teaching students to hate their country, their heritage, and themselves. Anyone who thought this wouldn’t provoke a reaction is utterly naive. It’s in the nature of hatred that eventually it’s reciprocated. Americans are now coming to hate their colleges. Defunding higher education, or at least the humanities, is now on the political agenda.

Harvard, Princeton, Yale and others have a problem when someone such as Nate Silver can write an essay like he did last week: “Go to a state school – the Ivy League and other elite private colleges are losing esteem, and they deserve it.” That’s a moderate position compared to what’s being published in some of America’s leading centre-right journals.

A few days ago in City Journal from the Manhattan Institute there was an article with the headline: “It’s time we approached our elite universities not as critical institutions we must repair but as national security threats.”

If university vice chancellors in this country are not careful, Australians might come to that same conclusion.

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This article was original published in The Australian Financial Review and was written by the author in their capacity as a contributor for that publication. It has been republished on the IPA website with permission. The views expressed are those of the author alone.

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