Academic who faced criticism over comments about Israel dismissed by university

·3-min read
Bristol University’s Wills Memorial building at the end of Park Street (Ben Birchall/PA) (PA Archive)
Bristol University’s Wills Memorial building at the end of Park Street (Ben Birchall/PA) (PA Archive)

A University of Bristol academic who received a barrage of criticism for comments he allegedly made about Israel has been dismissed.

David Miller professor of political sociology, is no longer employed by the institution after a disciplinary hearing found he “did not meet the standards of behaviour” expected by university staff.

The decision comes after Bristol University launched an investigation in March following his alleged comments about Israel.

Peers heard that the university lecturer’s behaviour had led to Jewish students “being subjected to weeks of harassment and abuse”.

The university regards the principle of academic freedom as fundamental and would like to reiterate that we take any risk to stifle that freedom seriously

University of Bristol

But supporters of Prof Miller have previously warned of “an attack on academic freedom” and the academic has said he will challenge the decision.

In a statement, the University of Bristol said: “We have a duty of care to all students and the wider university community, in addition to a need to apply our own codes of conduct consistently and with integrity.

“Balancing those important considerations, and after careful deliberation, a disciplinary hearing found Prof Miller did not meet the standards of behaviour we expect from our staff and the university has concluded that Prof Miller’s employment should be terminated with immediate effect.

“The university regards the principle of academic freedom as fundamental and would like to reiterate that we take any risk to stifle that freedom seriously.”

A report into academic freedom of expression concluded that Prof Miller’s comments “did not constitute unlawful speech”, the university added.

It comes after senior Tory MP Robert Halfon urged ministers not to “wash their hands” of concerns from Jewish students at the University of Bristol.

In March, Prof Miller also faced criticism in the House of Lords when a Tory frontbencher branded his views “ill-founded and reprehensible”.

I stand by my evidence-based comments and I will be challenging this decision, all the way to an employment tribunal if necessary

Professor David Miller

A joint statement from the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) and the Bristol Jewish Society said: “It has been over two years since UJS, CST (Community Security Trust) and the Jewish community raised their heads and their voices in protest at the harassment, targeting and vicious diatribe shared by Prof Miller with his students.

“It has been seven months since complaints were made about Miller’s statements targeting the Jewish society, its president and UJS.

“This announcement concludes months and years of tireless campaigns and actions by students to try and get the university and authorities to listen, and we are pleased that action has finally been taken.”

But the academic has said he will be challenging the university’s decision.

Prof Miller said: “The University of Bristol has embarrassed itself and the entire British academic sector by capitulating to a pressure campaign against me overseen and directed by a hostile foreign government. It has run a shambolic process that seems to have been vetted by external actors.

“Israel’s assets in the UK have been emboldened by the university collaborating with them to shut down teaching about Islamophobia. The University of Bristol is no longer safe for Muslim, Arab or Palestinian students.

“I stand by my evidence-based comments and I will be challenging this decision, all the way to an employment tribunal if necessary.”

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