Bristol Uni ‘does not endorse’ David Miller’s comments about Jewish students
‘We are proud of our students for their independence and individual contributions to the University and wider society.’
Bristol Uni has responded to the outrage over Professor David Miller’s widely condemned comments about Jewish students, saying in a statement: “We do not endorse the comments made by Professor Miller about our Jewish students.”
Following huge public backlash to comments made by David Miller, a sociology professor at Bristol Uni, and “a significant number of calls for Professor David Miller to be dismissed”, the university has defended itself, saying that it cannot unilaterally fire a member of staff, adding: “Any action which we might take as an employer is a private matter.”
They cite employment law as the reason the member of staff cannot be dismissed, but did not comment on any potential internal processes as a result of these recent comments.
On Saturday, Miller launched an attack calling for the “the end” of Zionism as well as claiming “it’s fundamental to Zionism to encourage Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism too”. He went on to criticise Jewish student groups, with Bristol JSoc targeted by Miller, leading to the president of Bristol JSoc being targeted for abuse online.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism (made up of Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, SNP, and Plaid Cymru MPs) condemned Bristol Uni on Friday, saying in a letter to VC Hugh Brady: “For every day that this goes unaddressed, you will be giving a green light to anti-Jewish incitement.”
Miller’s recent comments come after two years of complaints made against the professor. He was widely condemned in 2019 when images emerged of presentation slides from his lectures claiming “Zionist movements (parts of) as being ‘one of the five pillars of Islamophobia’”.
Bristol Uni has also been slammed in recent days by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Union of Jewish Students, the Community Security Trust, Bristol SU, Bristol JSoc, and students, staff and alumni from across the university.
It is with regret that we have felt the need to write the following letter to Professor Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor of @BristolUni. But the situation calls for it.
— Board of Deputies of British Jews (@BoardofDeputies) February 19, 2021
Thangam Debonnaire, MP for Bristol West, also condemned Miller, telling The Bristol Tab: “There is absolutely no place for antisemitism in our universities, our city or anywhere and it must be dealt with.
“I’ve spoken to members of the Jewish Society and others and I’ll be meeting with university authorities as soon as possible to discuss the situation.”
The Union of Jewish Students and Bristol JSoc is holding an online rally on Wednesday to call for action to be taken on Miller.
Edward Isaacs, President of the JSoc, told The Bristol Tab: “We welcome the opportunity to meet the university. However, these issues are not new and have been raised in multiple meetings previously and in formal complaints.
“Our message going into this meeting will be, action needs to be taken.”
A spokesperson for the University of Bristol said: “We have received a significant number of calls for Professor David Miller to be dismissed.
“UK law requires that we, like all employers, act in accordance with our internal procedures and the ACAS code of conduct. Any action which we might take as an employer is a private matter. We are under obligations of confidentiality in relation to all of our students and staff, which we will continue to comply with.
“We are speaking to JSoc, Bristol SU and UCU about how we can address students’ concerns swiftly, ensuring that we also protect the rights of our staff.
“We do not endorse the comments made by Professor Miller about our Jewish students. We are proud of our students for their independence and individual contributions to the University and wider society.”
In response to The Bristol Tab’s article detailing Miller’s statements last weekend, Miller said called Zionism a “racist, violent, imperialist ideology premised on ethnic cleansing”, “endemically anti-Arab and Islamophobic ideology,” and said “it has no place in any society.”
He claimed the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) is obliged to “silence critics of Zionism or the State of Israel on British campuses”. He also said the Bristol JSoc, alongside all Jewish Societies and the UJS, are engaged in a “campaign of censorship” which “renders Arab and Muslim students, as well as anti-Zionist Jewish students, particularly unsafe.”
Featured image: CAGE / YouTube