THE University of Sydney is investigating whether Associate Professor Jake Lynch breached its code of conduct during an altercation with a 76-year-old woman when anti-Israel protesters disrupted a talk last week.
Lynch, director of the university’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, was attending a public talk by Colonel Richard Kemp, an authority on the IDF’s attempts to limit civilian casualties, when more than a dozen pro-Palestinian students burst into the room chanting “Richard Kemp, you can’t hide, you support genocide.”
The protesters, who Education and Training Minister Christopher Pyne has accused of adopting fascist tactics, were asked to leave by security. Some had to be forcibly removed.
During the protest, Lynch became involved in an altercation with the woman who, at one point, threw water over him. The argument continued with Lynch filming her on his phone. She tried to slap and kick him, prompting him to wave banknotes at her. According to Lynch, the gesture was to emphasise his warning that he would sue her for assaulting him.
On a number of occasions, goading the woman, he tells her to “keep going”, “get your money out” and “it’s going to cost you a lot of money”.
As of press time, more than 5000 people had signed a petition initiated by the Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS) calling for Lynch’s removal from the University of Sydney for his alleged “continual harassment and intimidation of Jewish students”.
The university said in a statement to The AJN that it is investigating the incident. “The investigators are charged with the responsibility for reviewing all of the evidence, and allegations from various parties, to determine whether individuals have breached the university’s code of conduct and what action might be taken.”
Kemp said that Lynch’s behaviour was “entirely inappropriate” for an academic staff member and that he was “effectively encouraging and inciting the protesters, was grossly irresponsible and showed a dereliction of his duty”.
Pyne, meanwhile, slammed the protesters, telling The AJN, “There is no free speech defence or academic freedom defence here, the thugs who tried to close down Colonel Kemp weren’t exercising free speech or academic freedom, they were adopting the tactics of the fascists that they pretend to hate but in fact, emulate.”
Several formal complaints have been registered with university vice-chancellor Dr Michael Spence, including by AUJS, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and former minister for higher education Peter Baldwin, who attended the talk. Writing to Spence, Baldwin said, “I never experienced anything quite as repulsive as what I witnessed last Wednesday.”
Full coverage in this week’s AJN.
Jake Lynch at the protest.