Robert Halfon MP says Jewish students should stay ‘a million miles’ from Bristol University

Education: Secondary / Fri 29th Oct 2021 at 04:45pm

BRISTOL University’s deputy vice chancellor was taken to task in an Education Select Committee hearing this week for refusing to comment on what were described as the antisemitic conspiracy theories of sacked Professor David Miller reports The Jewish Chronicle.

Professor Tansy Jessop’s replies prompted a scathing attack from Harlow MP Robert Halfon, chairman of the committee, who said: “But if you removed Professor Miller there would have been a reason for it.”

The sociology lecturer was dismissed earlier this month after a prolonged inquiry following his comments referring to the university’s Jewish students as “political pawns … used by a violent, racist foreign regime”.

The Education Select Committee’s inquiry had been called to examine handling of the pandemic but Prof Jessop faced a string of questions from MPs about whether the campus at Bristol was a “safe space for Jews”.

In terse exchanges with Prof Jessop, Mr Halfon said he would tell Jewish students to stay away from Bristol, accused it of “letting down” Jewish students and said it had handled the case “appallingly”.

Mr Halfon said: “If you look at what went on and how long it took, I think most Jewish students feel that your university is a hostile place for Jews and I certainly, if anyone asked me who was Jewish, ‘Should they go to Bristol?’, I would say go a million miles from your university given what’s gone on… ”

Mr Halfon asked whether the university acknowledged Prof Miller was antisemitic.

She replied: “I have said, and I will say it again, that I was not part of the inquiry and that Bristol has conducted an independent investigation with an outcome and there is an appeal pending and I cannot say anymore because the inquiry is confidential. The press statement says: ‘He was not removed for unlawful speech but he was removed for disciplinary reasons because he wasn’t adhering to the codes of conduct we expect from our staff.’”

Referring to the same press statement, Mr Halfon asked Prof Jessop: “In your statement you say, ‘We recognise that these matters have caused deep concern for people on all sides of the debate and that members of our community hold very different views.’

“By ‘all sides’ do you mean racists and anti-racists?”

Prof Jessop replied: “By all sides we mean by anyone who is affected by the case.”

Nicola Richards, West Bromwich East MP, said Prof Miller’s belief in antisemitic conspiracy theories was well known before he was hired and challenged Prof Jessop to explain why he was taken on. She also urged the deputy vice chancellor to explain what safeguards were now in place to prevent similar issues in the future.

Jo Grady, general secretary of the University and College Union, also refused to be drawn on what were described as Prof Miller’s antisemitic conspiracy theories.

Mr Halfon criticised UCU Scotland for passing a motion condemning the attack on Prof Miller by “Zionist lobby groups”.

He asked Ms Grady: “Can you confirm if the UCU supports David Miller’s conduct and if not will you distance yourself and the UCU from this activity?” She replied: “It’s not appropriate for me to comment on this matter. Neither on this specific case, or on an individual.” Prof Miller has said he would appeal his sacking.

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