Tuesday, January 31st | 9 Shevat 5783

January 7, 2022 3:39 pm

University of Bristol Denounces Training Module That Advised Not to Hire Shabbat-Observant Jews


avatar by Dion J. Pierre

The University of Bristol campus. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The University of Bristol has denounced a diversity training module that appeared to justify not hiring a Jewish job applicant for observing Shabbat, after screenshots posted to social media generated an outcry.

One of the module’s quiz questions posed the hypothetical, “A selection panel is in discussion. The strongest candidate is John, a Jewish applicant. However there is a potential problem: he says he’ll need to leave early every Friday, which is when the weekly Team Meeting has to be held.”

Users were then asked to select among three options for responding to John’s application. Those who selected the option of recruiting John and “working around” his religious requirements were given the feedback, “Might not be a good idea.”

“Whilst it’s important to be flexible when it comes to accommodating religious practices amongst employees or candidates, key work responsibilities must always be fulfilled,” the module advised.

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In a statement responding to online criticism of the module on Thursday, the school tweeted, “We’re aware of screenshots circulating on social media of equality and diversity training at the University of Bristol. This is not official training currently offered by the University and we absolutely do not endorse its content. This content was developed several years ago by an external company that provided generic online training modules to universities and other organizations.”

“We can confirm that we no longer work with the company for staff training, and have not done so for some time,” the school continued.

The school has previously faced controversy surrounding the tenure of David Miller, a sociology professor fired in 2021 after allegations that he had spread conspiracies about British Jewish students in the classroom.

University of Bristol School of Humanities Senior Lecturer Professor Karen E.H. Skinazi, who shared a screenshot of the module on Twitter, said its content represented a “Classic case of #jewsdontcount.”

“Today, I was thinking about my university’s equality, diversity, and inclusion workshop, where I learned we shouldn’t hire the best person for the job if that person happened to be #shomershabbos,” said Skinazi.

She added, however, that her own religious practices were “immediately accommodated with no fuss whatsoever.”

“I also want to say that despite this generic external training, on the ground, I have been very well supported. I asked not to teach in person on Friday afternoons because I have a very long commute and the sun sets very early in the winter.”

She continued, “The culprit here is not Bristol (though of course the university should have reviewed the materials of this training) but rather these workshops that actually do the opposite of what they’re meant to do, which is create an inclusive work environment.”

Following Skinazi’s post, the module’s quiz was denounced by Jewish groups, including Jewish on Campus, which tweeted, “Here’s a feedback card: stop excluding religiously observant Jews just because it’s a minor convenience for you.”

Dave Rich, Head of Policy at Community Security Trust (CST) said, “I shouldn’t be surprised given Bristol Uni’s record, but this is truly shocking.”

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