Skip to content

Hundreds of Bristol University staff back 'Free Palestine' student encampment in open letter

Over 350 members of staff at the University of Bristol have signed an open letter in solidarity with the Bristol student encampment.

By Sapphire Hope, Third Year, Politics and International Relations 

Over 350 members of staff at the University of Bristol have signed an open letter in solidarity with the Bristol student encampment calling for an end 'to the genocide in Gaza and a Free Palestine.'

The open letter, published on May 9, is addressed to Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Evelyn Welch, and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Judith Squires, along with other members of the University Executive Board.

It comes after a group of pro-Palestine activists launched a student encampment on Bristol University’s Royal Fort Gardens on May 1, demanding the university to ‘sever ties with arms companies.’

The letter calls for the university to ‘support the right to protest, freedom of assembly, and freedom of speech for staff and students.’

Bristol University staff are demanding the University Executive Board negotiate with the students in the encampment by today (May 15).

The letter stated: ‘We stand in solidarity with the Bristol Student Encampment for a Free Palestine. Your recent communication to the entire UoB staff and student community continues to deny the existence of a genocide in Palestine and minimises our collective loss as a 'geopolitical issue'

‘The insistence on neutrality and failure to even mention ‘Palestine’ is very difficult to reconcile with the University’s stated stance to pursue social justice locally, and globally.'

It further added: ‘The encampment and this staff letter in support of it are a response to your continued inaction to recognise the deep distress within the UoB community over this University’s complicity in the ongoing genocide in Gaza and the lack of support for affected students and staff.’

The open letter, signed by 368 members of staff, also critiqued the University Executive Board’s demand that ‘students stop wearing masks because their use is 'intimidating'.’

‘Wearing a mask is an important practice for the health and safety of everyone participating in and visiting the encampment, and its use shouldn’t be prohibited. You must ensure that you uphold your duty of care and safeguard the wellbeing of all UoB students and staff,' the letter stated.

Dr Chris Rossdale, Senior Lecturer at the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies and advocate of the open letter, told Epigram: 'The University claims to be impartial, but that’s nonsense. If you’re conducting research in collaboration with the companies who are facilitating genocide, you’re not impartial - you’re complicit.

'Bristol’s business model depends on ignoring this inconvenient fact, but the students at the camp understand it perfectly well. As an educator at the University, I’m immensely proud of them all.'

The encampment at Royal Fort Gardens began on May 1 / Milan Perera

Regarding this development, a University of Bristol spokesperson said: 'The University has carefully considered and offered a response to this open letter. We fully respect the rights of our students to peacefully protest within the law. We recognise the distress and impact on all staff and students at the University of the ongoing violence and conflict in Israel-Gaza.

'It is more important than ever that we sustain our shared values of mutual respect, support, and compassion for each other, whatever our individual views on the conflict. Every member of our community should feel safe and included on our campuses and we ask everyone to respect and support each other at this time. There is no place for any form of racism, antisemitism, islamophobia, discrimination, incitement, bullying or harassment at the University of Bristol. We are in close contact with all affected communities, including our student societies, to offer ongoing support as required.'

Featured image: Milan Perera

Bristol University offers support to anyone affected by international conflicts through wellbeing services.

These can be contacted by:

Telephone: +44 (0)117 456 9860 (open 24 hours a day)


Completing the request wellbeing support form