Sydney University academic Jake Lynch has been cleared of charges of anti-Semitism and serious misconduct after a two-month investigation by the university found that he had engaged in “unsatisfactory conduct”.
“I am greatly relieved and entirely impressed and grateful at the effective campaign to mobilise opinion among right thinking people behind my intellectual freedom and against the vexatious an insubstantial allegations that I faced,” Lynch said.
“There are other aspects of the investigation that are still under discussion, but the main finding is that I remain in my post and that the false imputation of anti-Semitism has been completely refuted.”
Lynch and 12 other people, including five students, two university contractors (believed to be security guards) and five members of the public, had faced hearings from the university regarding a protest at a lecture at the university on March 11. The lecture, by Colonel Richard Kemp, a defender of the Israeli Defence Forces, was interrupted by pro-Palestinian activists, resulting in an altercation between attendees and protesters. Lynch was filmed waving a banknote in the face of one of the attendees, an elderly woman, who he claimed poured water over him and kicked at his groin. The woman, identified as 73-year-old Diane Barkus by The Australian, doesn’t deny that she kicked at Lynch, but says she didn’t make contact.
In a statement yesterday the university said: “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 university could not confirm how many members of the public or other members of staff had been disciplined or had their access to the university suspended. Barkus is understood to be one of the members of the public who was asked to explain her actions to the university, but it can’t be confirmed if she has been banned from university grounds.
Dr Nick Riemer, a senior lecturer at the university and member of Sydney Staff for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions, told Crikey the result “shows the baselessness of the campaign against him (Lynch)” and is a victory for free speech on campus. “The outcome has been a real victory against attempts to stifle the expression of political views.”
“The university should be congratulating Jake for promoting the cause of a just peace in the Middle East, not threatening him with the sack for it. It’s now time for the university to drop all its charges against the student protesters, too,” he said in a statement.
The investigation into the conduct of five students is still ongoing, and with the upcoming assessment period, Riemer says the investigation “interferes with the students’ education in a real, material way, which is unacceptable”.