As feminist scholars, we are writing to express our concern at the news that disciplinary procedures have been initiated against a PhD student who petitioned against a discriminatory event associated with the University of Bristol.
The student, Nic Shall, wrote a petition opposing an event organised by the anti-trans campaign group “A Woman’s Place”. Shall has been accused by the Vice Chancellor’s office of writing a letter containing false information, attempting to suppress the free speech of fellow students, and bringing the university into disrepute. They have been threatened with expulsion.
We believe that the disciplinary action against Shall represents an attack on the democratic right to free expression, and that it is this action that brings the University of Bristol into disrepute. The student in question is, in effect, being threatened with expulsion for writing a petition. If the University of Bristol is to uphold the principle of free speech and encourage political debate, then students and staff must be afforded the right to openly express their principled opposition to bigotry and discrimination.