UKLFI: Supporting Israel with legal skills

Student sues Leeds Uni after essay failed for not blaming Israel

Danielle Greyman’s essay on the crimes of Hamas, previously failed for not blaming Israel, has now been given a pass mark as recommended by an external examiner. Her legal claim against the University of Leeds for damages has been commenced and the defence is due by 16 August 2022.

As we previously reported, in the final year of her 3-year BA course in Sociology at the University of Leeds, Danielle Greyman chose an optional module about crimes of states and powerful elites. Marks for the module were based solely on a case study on a topic selected by the student. With her tutor’s agreement, Danielle decided to write about the crimes and immorality of Hamas and the role of the UN in facilitating them. The tutor agreed that she should not discuss alleged crimes of Israel in the essay or assess fault between Israel and Hamas, as the essay was not about Israel.

Danielle had never failed an assignment previously and was on track to receive a class 2.1 honours degree. However, her essay on Hamas was failed by the examiners.

The main reasons given for failing this module were:

  1. The essay did not discuss alleged crimes of Israel.

  2. The markers said the essay was too short – even though it met the specified requirement of 5,000 words +/- 10%..

The feedback on the essay by the markers indicated hostility and prejudice against Israel, as did their social media.

Since our previous report, it has also been drawn to our attention that one of the markers, Claudia Radiven, was a speaker at the 2019 Palexpo event organised by Friends of Al Aqsa on the subject “Prevent & Palestine: The Erosion of Activism Through Counter-Terrorism”. She also signed a petition defending Prof David Miller who was dismissed by Bristol University following controversial comments about Jewish students – as did 15 other staff of the University of Leeds.

Danielle submitted an appeal against the marking supported by a report by Dr David Hirsh, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Goldsmiths University of London and a leading expert on contemporary antisemitism.

He concluded: “It is not reasonable to fail this essay…. I have passed many essays which were significantly worse than this essay, this summer and every summer. I have moderated the marking of colleagues who have passed many essays this summer, and every summer, which are significantly worse than this essay. It is clear to me that for some reason the shortcomings of this essay … have been treated much more harshly than is consistent with usual practice.”

Dr Hirsh also noted that the comments of the markers were “inappropriate because they do not take the form of constructive feedback but of polemical engagement; and they are also inappropriate because the content of many of the points are misconceived, in particular with respect to the essay question.”

The appeal committee at the University of Leeds rejected the complaint of bias without giving any reasons, but said that the essay should be remarked by an external examiner appointed by the university’s sociology school since the markers had not explained why they said it was too short.

The external examiner subsequently recommended a pass mark and this has now been confirmed the Assessment Board of the University of Leeds School of Sociology.

The Jewish Chronicle, The Times, Daily Mail and other media around the world have recently reported on the case, and there has been extensive discussion on Twitter.

Jonathan Turner, Executive Director of UKLFI Charitable Trust, which has been assisting Danielle, said “We are pleased that the university has at last recognised that Danielle’s essay should not have been given a fail mark. We hope that the university will now recognise that there is no viable defence to Danielle’s legal claim for compensation and avoid unnecessary trouble and expense trying to defend it.”

Daniel Berke of 3D-Solicitors, who is acting for Danielle in her legal claim, said: “In the event that the University fails to properly compensate our client, the Court will be asked to determine whether the markers carried out their duties with reasonable skill and care, or whether they were influenced by their own personal prejudices and hostility to Israel. It is lamentable that a student was placed in a position where she was required to seek legal advice simply to have her essay fairly marked. She sought no special treatment, only fairness.”