Oxford University’s U21 Rugby squad is to be sent on a cultural diversity course following investigations by Proctors into alleged anti-Semitic behaviour by some team members.
The decision came as a result of an investigation launched by University Proctors into the “Bring a fit Jew” social organised by the squad in November.
Despite being asked by officials from Oxford University Student Union to change the theme of the social, it was alleged that some members of the squad wore stereotypical Jewish clothing to the event.
“Facepaint and loincloths”
The following week, photographs emerged of members of the team ‘blacked up’ and wearing loincloths for an African themed Safari Bop.
After completing their investigation into the rugby team’s social, the Proctors cleared the team of breaching University regulations.
A University spokesperson said:
“They have concluded that initial reports about what was planned and about what actually happened were exaggerated.”
However, all members of the Under 21s team will attend a seminar on cultural diversity given early next term by the University’s equality and diversity unit.
The three-hour workshop will take place on January 29th in St. Anne’s College run by head of the Equality and Diversity Unit of the University.
Steve Hill, director of OURFC, was asked by organisers of the seminar to submit a list of those who should attend.
He has decided that the members of the squad that represented OURFC for the rugby match at Twickenham for the Varsity match should be the players that should represent the squad at the workshop, regardless of whether or not they attended the social.
A member of OURFC has called the seminar “unnecessary.”
“I think the seminar will be a waste of everyone’s time. The team isn’t racist.
The original social was insensitive, but it has been misrepresented – as supported by the proctors’ investigation. So, these measures are unnecessary.”
A member of the Cambridge U21 rugby team expressed sympathy for the U21 squad.
“I can see how a group of guys can think that it is a bit of fun at the time without meaning to cause offence.
People often react without considering the humorous side and this social shouldn’t be shouldn’t be taken so seriously.”
He also doubted whether the course was an “effective way to educate a rugby team about diversity.”
Students across the university have also questioned the value of the seminar.
An LMH finalist commented, “I think a cultural diversity lesson will just make the team think that their behaviour is even more of a joke – it will probably just become a legendary event for them to boast about.”
“The team should learn about anti-Semitism in history”
Rabbi Eli Brackman, director of the Oxford Chabad Society, an Orthodox Jewish group, stated that the University should “take these matters more seriously.”
He declared that the team should visit a Holocaust museum or former concentration camp Auschwitz to learn about the effect of anti-Semitism throughout history.
“They would be able to learn about history, allowing them to become more sensitive and aware of the full implications and meaning of their behaviour.”
He has registered his concern regarding the “trend” of offensive behaviour towards the Jewish community.
“Ignorance and lack of sensitivity at the university”
“I am concerned about the trend following the hosting of David Irving at the Union, which also offended the sensibilities of the Jewish community and students.
“One might be able to dismiss each event individually but combined they seem to reflect an ignorance and lack of sensitivity directed at the Jewish students at the university.”
A spokesperson for the Union of Jewish Students has praised the action taken by University proctors and stated that they hoped that the training would provide a “positive outcome to an unsavoury episode.”
“The response from by Oxford University and Oxford University Student Union has been excellent and shows that the institution is serious about being a welcoming place for all students.”
“Such behaviour is not ‘banter’.”
Raphel Cohen, the President of Oxford University Jewish society, JSoc, refused to comment on the cultural diversity seminar but stressed that it was important to combat “casual racism” within the university.
He said, “I do think it is important that casual racism of all kinds, whichever group it is aimed at, is recognised as such and it is not acceptable to wave away such behaviour as ‘banter’.”