Deal sparks bias fears

July 25, 2003

Middlesex University faced renewed allegations of anti-Semitism this week when it emerged that it had signed a partnership deal with a female US college after rejecting a similar deal with a Jewish college on the grounds that it practised sexual segregation.

The THES reported in May last year that Middlesex's deputy vice-chancellor, Ken Goulding, had written to Touro College in New York explaining that the university would not enter a partnership with it "given concerns about the Jewishness of the college".

When the letter emerged, Middlesex vehemently denied that anti-Semitism was behind the decision and said the letter "reflected concerns about gender segregation in some of Touro's teaching".

A university spokeswoman said at the time: "The university offers entry to its programmes to everyone, regardless of race, gender and age. At one of Touro's campuses, there was segregation between men and women. Such segregation runs counter to the ethos of Middlesex University, where both genders are taught together."

In signing a deal with Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, Middlesex appears to have ignored this policy. Spelman is a private liberal arts college for black women set up in the 19th century by the Women's American Baptist Home Mission Society.

Geoffrey Alderman, former pro vice-chancellor of Middlesex who was vice-president at Touro at the time of the failed negotiations, said: "If it is true that Middlesex has an aversion to gender segregation as it had stated, how can it justify a relationship with Spelman College?"

Professor Alderman, a prominent member of Britain's Jewish community and emeritus professor at Middlesex, said he was too "furious and upset" to comment further.

Middlesex signed a deal with Spelman earlier this year to set up a transatlantic student-exchange programme. As a result, two Spelman students swapped places with two female students from Middlesex.

A university spokeswoman said the transatlantic study-abroad, student-exchange scheme was agreed with both Spelman College, a women's institution, and Morehouse College, a men's institution, also in Georgia.

The spokeswoman continued: "For the pilot year (2003) there were two vacancies, and the successful applicants were both women. The students had the option of taking classes at either Morehouse or Spelman, and they interacted with both colleges during their stay. The programme is aimed to challenge students' stereotypes in gender, race, religion and age."

She added: "The two colleges have a heritage that celebrates diversity.

This student-exchange scheme includes business and political governance at the highest level. There has been tremendous support from the mayors'

offices in Atlanta and London, the US Embassy and the Fulbright Commission."

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