The University of Illinois has created a new Jewish advisory council in order to combat antisemitism and build an inclusive campus environment for Jewish students at the university, as reported by the student newspaper The Daily Ilini on Monday.
The council was announced by Chancellor Robert Jones on March 12, and came following complaints from students regarding antisemitic incidences on campus.
“This is a step forward, a good step forward, in solving the problem of dealing with antisemitism on campus,” Erez Cohen, co-chairman of the council and executive director of Illinois Hillel, told The Daily Illini.
“We’ve seen that Jewish students, Jewish faculty and Jewish staff members were not consulted in these situations, and the response was much more general," he said. "So, having more involvement in helping solve our community’s problem is really critical.”
The new advisory council conducted its first meeting on Monday and is expected to meet at least another four times during the semester. As part of its meetings, the council will meet with Jones and Sean Garrick, vice chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, along with students to hear their personal stories of antisemitism on campus and their views on Jewish life in general.
The decision to establish a council was modeled after the success of the one at the University of California-Berkeley.
“We are in some ways following a precedent,” Cohen said.
“It’s not a common precedent yet, but it’s a good precedent of getting people to meet and talk – and put the things that are troublesome on the table and try to serve the university and the needs of the Jewish population.” he said.
“Now that the council here is finally established, we’re probably going to bring representatives from their committee to come and speak to us and show us the work that they have done.”
The final report for the council is expected in May. It “is not a final document by any shape, way or means, but it’s going to help provide the road map for what is the work we are going to do, and when to expect some initial findings and later findings,” Cohen said.