Exclusive: Bristol Uni’s David Miller under police investigation for ‘hate crime or incident’
The police are asking students to speak to them about their experiences
Bristol Uni’s Professor David Miller is under police investigation following remarks allegedly made during his lectures.
In a statement to The Bristol Tab, Avon and Somerset Police confirmed the investigation into “a hate crime or hate incident taking place during lectures at the University of Bristol.”
The police are encouraging anyone with information that could assist the investigation to come forward and speak to officers.
The Bristol Tab has also learned that Miller is currently on “sick leave”, that many of Miller’s students are also still waiting for the results of their January assessments, and that his personal tutees have been reassigned to other members of staff.
Bristol Uni said in a statement to The Bristol Tab that they are “seeking clarification from Avon and Somerset Police”, adding: “If notified of a formal investigation, we will of course cooperate.”
In a statement to The Bristol Tab, the Avon and Somerset Police said: “We have recently been made aware of a number of incidents that may constitute a hate crime or hate incident taking place during lectures at the University of Bristol.
“We take issues such as these very seriously. An email was circulated to student groups last week asking people to speak to the police regarding their experiences.
“Our investigation is at an early stage and enquiries are ongoing to establish if any offences have been committed.
“Our aim is to help everyone to feel safe and supported while studying in Bristol and we are working closely with the university at this time.
“Anyone with information that can assist us should contact 101 and give reference 5221036233.”
In a statement to The Bristol Tab, the Bristol JSoc said: “Unfortunately we cannot comment as we are concerned it may affect any current or potential police investigation.”
In a developments entirely separate to the police investigation, earlier today a question was posed in the House of Lords about David Miller. Lord Austin of Dudley asked what the government’s assessments of Miller’s comments are, and whether they have spoken to Bristol Uni and the police about what is being done “to ensure the safety of [Jewish] students”.
Lord Parkinson responded on behalf of the government, saying that, although universities are independent, “We consider that the University of Bristol could do more to make its condemnation of Professor Miller’s conduct clear.”
He added: “Students also can and should contact the police if they believe the law has been broken.
“Professor Miller has expressed some ill-founded and reprehensible views and the government wholeheartedly rejects them.”
Lord Dudley responded by acknowledging freedom of speech, and added: “Professor Miller does not have the right to attack Jewish students as part of an “Israel lobby group which makes Arab and Muslim students unsafe” and Bristol should not be employing someone to teach students wild conspiracy theories about Jewish people.”
Lord Parkinson responded: “What makes this case concerning is Professor Miller’s comments about his own students suggesting that their disagreement with his views is because they are political pawns of a foreign government or part of a Zionist enemy which has no place in any society.”
After The Bristol Tab reached out to David Miller for comment, we received a response from a spokesperson for the “Support David Miller” campaign, saying: “Far-right Zionist hate groups around the country are known to use spurious police complaints to intimidate pro-Palestine activists.”
The statement describes “widespread support from academics and students at Bristol and beyond”, adding that any complaint against Miller “should be treated with contempt”.
They then claim that since 2014, “far-right Zionist thugs” have “manufactured ‘antisemitism’ smears” that target UK political parties, universities, and activists. They close by encouraging “all anti-racists” to join what they describe as an “international movement that will at last expose and defeat the racism that fuels Zionist thuggery.”
Miller and Bristol Uni have come under intense criticism in the last month following comments made by Miller about Jewish students at the university, which lead to the president of the Bristol Jewish Society (JSoc) being targeted for online abuse. He called for the “the end” of Zionism, as well as claiming “it’s fundamental to Zionism to encourage Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism too”.
On Thursday 18th February, Miller doubled down on his comments, while also claiming that a student was involved in “political surveillance” against him, and that attacks on him are “directed by the State of Israel”, which has resulted in the online abuse of Jewish students.
Two years ago, the Community Security Trust (CST) filed a complaint to Bristol Uni following a lecture Miller delivered as part of his “Harms of the Powerful” module, which made Jewish students feel uncomfortable and unwelcome in his classes. This complaint has not yet been resolved by Bristol Uni.
A Jewish student in his class, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said: “I was one of the only Jewish students in David Miller’s class. Honestly it was scary because he is a teacher so people believed the anti-Semitism he was spreading. I was scared because I am one voice and felt I couldn’t stand up to him or tell him what he was saying was wrong.”
In one of his slides, Miller accuses the “Zionist movement (parts of)” of being one of the five “pillars of Islamophobia”.
In two further slides, he tries to link various British Jewish organisations directly to the state of Israel, which a Jewish students described as: “grimly reminiscent of anti-Semitic tropes where Jews are accused of having unique power and influence over political affairs.”
In a previous statement to The Bristol Tab, Miller said: “The ‘hurt’ and ‘discomfort’ complained of by students, whether genuine or manufactured by campus-based lobby groups, cannot be used to prevent the teaching of the links between various political ideologies and activities.”
He also said that he believed the article written about him at the time was part of a series of orchestrated attacks to stop him teaching about “the important relationship between Zionism and rising Islamophobia”, and was to “an encouragement of anti-Muslim racism”.
Bristol Uni has been condemned in recent weeks by MPs from all political parties, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Bristol SU, the Holocaust Educational Trust, the Union of Jewish Students (UJS), the Community Security Trust (CST), Labour Against Antisemitism, Bristol West MP Thangam Debbonaire, Bristol staff, students, alumni, leading figures in the UK, among many others.
A spokesperson for Bristol Uni said in a previous statement: “We would like to reassure our University community and members of the public that this is of utmost priority and we are treating it as a matter of urgency.”
In a previous statement to The Bristol Tab, a Department for Education spokesperson said: “This government abhors antisemitism and we expect universities to be at the forefront of tackling the challenge of antisemitism, making sure that higher education is a genuinely fulfilling and welcoming experience for everyone.
“We do not comment on individual cases. The Government expects universities and other higher education providers to comply with their legal duties on discrimination and harassment as well as their legal duties to protect free speech.”
A spokesperson for Bristol Uni said: “The University is seeking clarification from Avon and Somerset Police. If notified of a formal investigation, we will of course cooperate.
“Our freedom of speech policy underlines the vital importance of the right of staff and students, as members of a free and democratic society, to speak openly without fear of censorship or limitation, provided that this right is exercised responsibly, within the law, and with respect for others who may have differing views.
“Our clear and consistently held position is that bullying, harassment, and discrimination are never acceptable. We remain committed to providing a positive experience for all our students and staff, and to fostering an inclusive University community.
“We can confirm that the University has already initiated an investigation into this matter. The investigation is being carried out in accordance with the University’s internal process and, as we have explained in a previous statement, that process is confidential. In particular, it is not appropriate for the University to make any comment on this matter while the investigation we have referred to is underway.”
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