‘Hatred has no place in our city’: Thangam Debbonaire and Rachel Riley call for action to be taken against Bristol professor

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By Molly Pipe, SU Correspondent

The comments were made at a Bristol JSoc and Union of Jewish Students rally attended by 650 earlier this evening.

Demands have once again been made for the University of Bristol to take action against its sociology lecturer, Professor David Miller.

The academic was denounced at a rally involving high-profile speakers, including Lord John Mann, Bristol West MP Thangam Debbonaire and TV presenter Rachel Riley, earlier this evening.

Rachel Riley, best-known for presenting Channel 4’s Countdown, paid tribute to the Jewish students in Bristol, who she described as ‘incredibly brave’, but added ‘they shouldn’t have to be’.

‘They should be living their best student lives: getting a degree and having fun, she continued. ‘To Bristol University, the Vice-Chancellors – the people supposedly tasked with inclusion and diversity – I say this: do your duty. Stand by your students.’

‘I’m not the first person who asked this and I definitely won’t be the last, you’re well aware of your responsibilities and what measures you can take to stop this. It’s up to you now to do the right thing. Get hate off campus, now.’

Mann, meanwhile, who has sat in the House of Lords since 2019, said: ‘My message to the University of Bristol is simple: be like the city of Bristol and learn the lessons of history.’

Thangam Debbonaire MP further said that she held Miller principally to blame, explaining: ‘If university is to be a place of respectful debate, that example has to be set. If you really want to be a good educator, you have to be willing to be challenged and to create a safe space for that debate.

‘It should never, ever, ever be just left to Jewish students to stand up to anti-Semitism. Allies have to step up too.’

The rally, which was attended by 650 supporters, was called by Bristol’s JSoc and the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) in response to a video that emerged last week, where Professor Miller called for the ‘end’ to Zionism ‘as a functioning ideology of the world’, and criticised Bristol JSoc and UJS.

Miller, who was suspended by the Labour Party last year after claiming that leader Keir Starmer had been in receipt of ‘Zionist money’, had also been formally complained about to the university two years ago.

In response to the recent criticism, Miller described the actions of JSoc and others as ‘a campaign of manufactured hysteria for two years, attempting to have me sacked.’

‘The campaign reached new heights of absurdity,’ he said, ‘when a Zionist activist pretended to be a student in one of my classes for which she was not registered, expressly for the purpose of political surveillance.’ He described this as ‘an age-old Israel lobby tactic imported from the US.’

A spokesperson for the University of Bristol has said they are ‘unable to comment on complaints made about individual members of staff.’

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They have also explained that ‘a useful meeting with Bristol JSoc and UJS’ took place yesterday and that they ‘are continuing to work with them.’

‘However, at the students’ request, we are unable to go into detail about the discussions.

‘We remain committed to making our University an inclusive place for all students, while also upholding our commitment to freedom of speech and to the rights of all our students and staff to discuss difficult and sensitive topics,’ the spokesperson added.

Featured Image: Bristol JSoc/Facebook


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