UK Jewish org calls for suspension of Bristol prof under investigation

Board of Deputies calls on University of Bristol to suspend prof pending outcome of investigation into comments made about Jewish students.

Dan Verbin ,

University of Bristol
University of Bristol

The head of a major UK Jewish group is calling on the University of Bristol to suspend a professor under investigation since March for inflammatory comments about Jewish students.

On Tuesday, Marie van der Zyl, the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, posted to Twitter a letter she sent to the University of Bristol requesting a meeting to “discuss the British Jewish community’s deep concern at the ongoing situation regarding David Miller.”

Earlier in the year, sociology professor Miller was accused of targeting Jewish students – specifically members of the university’s Jewish Society (J-Soc), whom he called “pawns of a racist regime engaged in ethnic cleansing,” according to the Jewish Chronicle.

Miller was also quoted as saying at a February online conference, “It’s a question of how we defeat the ideology of Zionism in practice. How do we make sure Zionism is ended essentially. There’s no other way of saying that.”

In late April, the Union of Jewish Students and Bristol JSoc lobbied for Miller to be suspended until the conclusion of the university’s investigation.

The investigation by the University of Bristol is still ongoing, as noted by van der Zyl in her letter addressed to Hugh Brady, vice chancellor and president of the University of Bristol.

“While a certain period of investigation into this is understandable, the silence from the university’s leadership on this issue has been troubling,” she wrote. “It is even more unsettling, however, to note that the university seems set to allow Mr. Miller to resume his teaching for the coming academic years while the investigation into his deeply disturbing conduct is still ongoing.”

Van der Zyl called for Miller to be suspended until the conclusion of the investigation into his statements. She added that failing to do so would “cause the UK Jewish community to assume that either the university is not taking the behavior exhibited by Mr. Miller seriously, or, perhaps even worse, that this entire investigation is a sham.”

She went on to accuse the university – “either inadvertently or deliberately” – of “pretending no problem exists” and of assuming that given enough time the “anger and disquiet surrounding this issue will disappear.”

“I feel the need to emphasize that this is not going to happen,” she wrote.

She requested a meeting with Brady to “better understand the timeline for this disciplinary process” and “the steps the university will take to protect and care for Jewish students.”

She also noted the “reputational risk to the university if the current policy of under-engagement is not changed.”

Van der Zyl’s concerns were echoed on Tuesday by UK Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick, who sent a letter to the University of Bristol stating that “any inaction now risks the most serious damage to the reputation of your university,” reported the Jewish Chronicle.

Earlier in the month, a campaign supporting Miller charged that Bristol J-Soc was guilty of "whitewashing Zionist colonization of Palestine," the Jewish News reported.

The statement by the group was made after it was revealed that Miller will be back to teaching even though the investigation by the university into his conduct has been ongoing for over 150 days.