By ELIZABETH BINNING
Waikato University has been told to apologise to the Jewish community following its handling of a former neo-Nazi student who denied the Holocaust took place.
The apology is one of several recommendations to come out of the long-awaited Kupka report, instigated two years ago when concerns were raised about PhD student Hans Joachim Kupka.
Mr Kupka was researching the use of the German language in New Zealand but left in June 2000 amid an angry outcry after reports that he denied in internet chat rooms that the Holocaust occurred.
In a 160-page report released yesterday, Former Ministry of Education chief executive Bill Renwick criticised the university for its handling of the matter.
He said the situation was unlucky but could have been avoided if the university had gone about it differently.
Senior Jewish staff at the university became concerned about Mr Kupka when another student found his Holocaust denials on the internet.
The staff considered it inappropriate for him to be working on a thesis that could bring him into contact with German-speaking Jewish migrants, some of whom would have been Holocaust survivors.
The university's investigation cleared Mr Kupka of breaching the Human Rights Act. But angry staff, students and members of the Jewish community rejected the findings and called for an independent review.
In his report, Mr Renwick said Mr Kupka's published opinions were "racist, anti-Semitic and Holocaust denying" and that the university "did not live up to its obligations" when it dealt with the concerns raised about him.
"I have concluded that it did not act with the appropriate sensitivity to the concerns that some of its Jewish members and members of the wider Jewish community brought to its attention."
He recommended the university's chancellor apologise to the Jewish community for the "pain and anguish that Jews suffered in the course of Mr Kupka's doctoral candidature".
He also suggested it review the way it dealt with information in research proposals.
University Vice-Chancellor Bryan Gould said the university would work on the recommendations.
"This has been a difficult issue for the university and community. We were obliged to strike the right balance between our complete abhorrence of racism and anti-Semitism ... with our regard for principles of freedom of expression and academic freedom."
By ELIZABETH BINNING