Suspended pro-life student secures settlement from University
- Julia Rynkiewicz faced suspension from midwifery studies and a 4-month fitness-to-practice investigation as a result of her involvement in pro-life society
- Rynkiewicz accepted Nottingham’s settlement offer following her formal complaint
NOTTINGHAM (25 November 2020) – Are universities stifling students’ views? Midwifery student Julia Rynkiewicz believes so, and her newly-settled case provides one such example. Rynkiewicz served as president of “Nottingham Students for Life”, a pro-life student society that was initially denied affiliation by Nottingham University’s Students’ Union.
Concerns around Rynkiewicz’s fitness to practise centered on material available at the society’s freshers’ fair stall, as well as her public association with the society. She faced a suspension and four-month fitness-to-practice investigation, disrupting her education. In the wake of the Fitness to Practise panel dismissing all allegations against her, she believes that she was unfairly targeted for her beliefs, that there were significant procedural failures compromising the investigation, and that the university should apologize “as a matter of justice”.
Following the dismissal of the allegations against her, Julia filed a formal complaint with the University. After review at three levels of the process, the University has offered a settlement.
“Putting my life on hold because of an unjust investigation was really difficult, both mentally and emotionally. The settlement demonstrates that the university’s treatment of me was wrong, and while I’m happy to move on, I hope this means that no other student will have to experience what I have. What happened to me risks creating a fear among students to discuss their values and beliefs, but university should be the place where you are invited to do just that,” said Ms. Rynkiewicz.
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A nation-wide poll released this week by ADF International (UK) found that 44% of students self-censor in front of lecturers for fear that they would be “treated differently” if they expressed their real opinions. More than a third agreed that the number of student events cancelled because of the views of speakers has increased. ADF International (UK) is sending a letter to No. 10 to seek urgent action on this issue. The letter asks that the government take steps to end to “no-platforming” and strengthen legal safeguards for academic freedom. Supporters of free speech are encouraged to add their signature.
“Of all places, university is where students should be free to debate and explore ideas – especially those with which they disagree. I’m pleased that with this settlement, Nottingham University recognised errors that were made in pursuing Julia who simply wanted to live out her pro-life convictions. However, the results of ADF International (UK)’s recent poll shows that the discriminatory silencing of Julia’s voice is not an isolated incident. 1 in 3 students fear that their views would be considered “unacceptable”. A culture of vibrant discussion and free debate must be restored to our universities. Today’s censorial culture on campus can easily become cancel culture in the public square,” said Ryan Christopher, Director of ADF International (UK).