A University of Leeds graduate has filed a lawsuit against the university for discrimination, negligence, and victimization after her essay on crimes committed by Hamas against Palestinians was failed because it did not criticize Israel.
Following an appeal and an external review, the university regraded and passed Danielle Greyman’s essay, agreeing that the marking was irregular and that the original essay should have passed.
The university took more than a year to process Greyman’s appeal and arrive at a verdict. The extensive waiting time prevented her from starting a master’s degree in sociology at the University of Glasgow. The lawsuit was first reported by the London-based Jewish Chronicle.
Greyman told The Media Line her advisers knew she was writing on the topic of Hamas’ crimes against Palestinians and agreed that the essay did not need to discuss the role of Israel since it was analyzing the internal politics of Hamas. She said that if Dr. Simon Prideaux, a professor of sociology at the university and Greyman’s academic adviser on the essay, had not approved her topic, “I would have chosen a different subject.”
In her essay, Greyman referenced Hamas’ use of human shields, writing that it was “a betrayal of the Palestinian people by their government.” The grader wrote in response to this statement: “This ignores the fact that the Israeli state commits acts of violence.”
Dr. David Hirsh, senior lecturer in sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London, reviewed the grading and feedback on Greyman’s essay. He told The Media Line, “This essay is absolutely not a fail.” He also said the comments made by the grader “seemed to have a polemic engagement” and did not provide correct justification for failing the essay.
One of the graders of Greyman’s essay was Claudia Radiven, who signed a petition defending Prof. David Miller after he was fired from Bristol University in 2021 for making remarks during a lecture that Israel was “a violent, racist, foreign regime engaged in ethnic cleansing,” and calling Jewish students who disagreed with him “political pawns.”
Radiven regularly shares anti-Israel sentiment on Twitter, including one retweet that read: “Brick by Brick Wall by Wall, Elbit’s factories are starting to fall,” from Palestine Action in January 2022. Palestine Action is a group that vandalizes factories in the UK owned by Elbit, an Israel-based international defense electronics company.
UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) Chief Executive Jonathan Turner told The Media Line that he believes all lecturers are entitled to hold political opinions and are free to express them on social media, but “they must absolutely leave them outside the door when it comes to marking scripts and when lecturing … in this case, it’s quite clear they didn’t.”
Turner thinks that UKLFI has a strong case against the university since either the advice given to Danielle Greyman was negligent or the grading was discriminatory. He adds that “one of the striking things about this case is that when Danielle chose to write her essay on the crimes of Hamas, she checked with her tutor as to whether she needed to say anything about Israel and he advised her that no, she shouldn’t … and when the essay was marked by the same tutor it was marked down expressly because it hadn’t criticized Israel.”
Hirsh told The Media Line that he was aware of student essays at both the University of Liverpool and Goldsmiths, University of London that focused on Israel and had received similar treatment. These students also appealed to their universities over being marked down due to graders who disagreed with the students’ views on Israel and antisemitism.
Turner identified five lawsuits that UKLFI has been involved in over students facing grade discrimination on their essays on the topic of Israel, including against the University of Warwick and the London School of Economics.
Greyman sees this problem as endemic to the Sociology Department of the University of Leeds. She noted that Leeds is one of five UK universities that receive the highest number of Jewish students, and said the way that Leeds is trying to cover up the incident is “shockingly unique … they are willfully not seeing the antisemitism.”
The Community Security Trust UK (CST), a British charity that protects British Jews from antisemitism and related threats, revealed in a report looking at antisemitism on campus that, from 2018 to 2020, 14 antisemitic incidents at universities perpetrated by staff had taken place, with two occurring at the University of Leeds.
The Media Line spoke to CST Director of Policy Dave Rich, who said that the data collected in 2021 revealed a record year for university-related antisemitic incidents, a pattern that he saw emerging when Israel was involved in regional conflicts, such as the May 2021 conflict with Gaza, when CST recorded 661 antisemitic incidents on campus for the same month.
A University of Leeds spokesperson told The Media Line, “The university strenuously denies the accusations of antisemitism, and all proceedings will be fully defended. Further comment would be inappropriate given the matter is subject to legal action.”
This story was written Isla-Rose Deans and reprinted with permission from The Media Line. Isla-Rose Deans is a student at the University of Leeds and an intern in The Media Line’s Press and Policy Student Program.