A University of Sydney academic will retain his job and says he has been cleared of serious misconduct after an investigation into a campus protest left him facing dismissal.
Associate Professor Jake Lynch, Director of the university’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, was one of 11 people to be sent letters outlining a range of allegations of misconduct after a lecture delivered by retired British Colonel Richard Kemp was interrupted by pro-Palestinian protesters on March 11.
The University of Sydney yesterday confirmed it had completed a report into the incident.
“I am delighted and relieved to be cleared of serious misconduct and that the threat to my position at the university has been lifted,” Lynch told New Matilda.
“I pay tribute to the vigorous and effective campaign to mobilise right thinking opinion against the vexatious and insubstantial allegations against me – in particular the slur of anti-Semitism which has been comprehensively refuted.”
While escaping serious sanction, Lynch has reportedly been issued a warning for “unsatisfactory conduct”.
Video from the March 11 incident showed Lynch waving money in the face of a Jewish woman who allegedly assaulted him after protesters entered the lecture hall with the intention of interrupting Kemp, a vigorous defender of Israeli attacks on Gaza.
The images sparked fury from Jewish organisations who have long targeted Lynch over his support for the Boycott, Divestments, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
The Australasian Union of Jewish Students launched a petition calling for Lynch’s removal, which attracted 6,328 signatures.
Lynch said the gesture was not anti-Semitic and that he had been warning the woman he would sue if the assaults on him continued.
As New Matilda revealed last month, the first stage of the university’s investigation into the incident cleared him of allegations of anti-Semitism.
Dean Sherr, Chairperson of the Australasian Union of Jewish Students, thanked the university for the investigation.
“This conduct reflects poorly on Associate Professor Lynch, irrespective of the punishment handed down by the University. Whatever his motivations were, the fact that a senior and apparently progressive academic was engaged in such conduct ought to be to the shock of all genuine progressives and anti-racists,” Sherr said.
“That the University did not charge him with an anti-Semitic breach of their code of conduct does not vindicate his behaviour entirely.”
Those sentiments have been echoed by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.
“I suspect that the image of Lynch waving banknotes in the face of an elderly Jewish woman, and the university’s findings of “unsatisfactory conduct”, will long remain in the public memory,” Executive Director Peter Wertheim said.
Despite clearing Lynch of anti-Semitism, the university continued its investigation into the associate professor as well as several students, audience members, and two security personnel who forcefully removed protesters from the lecture theatre.
In a statement issued yesterday, a University of Sydney spokesperson said lower level disciplinary action had been taken against some of those subject to the investigation, but declined to provide details.
“A number of members of the University community and the public were found to have engaged in unsatisfactory conduct, as a result of which disciplinary action, including counselling, warning and suspension of access rights to the University grounds have been imposed,” the statement said.
While accusations of anti-Semitism have drawn the greatest attention, footage from the protest also shows an audience member telling protesters at the door that “there is no such people [as the]Palestinians”. A Palestinian-Australian student can be seen looking on with surprise.
The University of Sydney has been a battleground for debate over the BDS movement in recent years.
In October 2013 an Israeli legal centre tried unsuccessfully to sue Lynch in an attempt to effectively outlaw advocacy of BDS in Australia.
The case collapsed in mid-2014.
Sydney Staff for BDS issued a statement yesterday dismissing allegations of anti-Semitism levelled by Jewish groups against Lynch as “an opportunity to attack one of their ideological opponents”.
Sherr rejected the accusation.
“The suggestion that the complaints were made in bad faith (whether upheld or not) is very ugly, and demonstrably untrue,” Wertheim said, pointing to a blog post by Lynch in which he acknowledged his actions had given rise to “serious misgivings” in the Jewish community.