The University of York Students' Union has a duty to uphold and facilitate freedom of speech on campus. That duty includes the facilitation of respectful and reasoned discussion of challenging issues, an essential component of a robust student education. When these issues connect with world politics and identified groups, in ways that could create security issues among the campus community, YUSU has a duty of care to ensure protection and balance in the conduct and content of political debates. That duty of care necessitates a supportive environment in which individual students or identifiable groups of students all have a voice and are not victimised, harassed, harangued or generally cowed into silence as the safer option. The corollary is that we must operate an effective complaints procedure to promptly resolve issues brought to their attention.
YUSU recognises that it failed on certain occasions to fulfil these obligations in respect of organised opposition to the policies of the Israeli government and to the spill over impact on Jewish students on campus. These issues have been highlighted both by the conduct of a BDS referendum and the subsequent unacceptable treatment of Zachary Confino who attempted properly to raise issues with YUSU over a prolonged period of time. YUSU now wishes to make a sincere apology to Zachary over his treatment and the very distressing experience to which he has been subjected. YUSU wishes to thank Zachary for persevering in raising his concerns with YUSU and helping us to ensure that issues were properly considered.
Looking ahead, YUSU is strongly committed to learning the lessons of the experience of Zachary Confino. These apply both in terms of sensitivity to antisemitism and the handling of complaints. Policies and procedures will be reformed with a view to all our students experiencing a safe and secure experience at York. YUSU is also committed to working with the University, the Jewish Society and the Union of Jewish Students to bring forward measures to ensure that Jewish students feel welcome on campus, and to make York a destination of choice for Jewish students.