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Student midwife fights back after wrongful suspension

March 2020

A midwifery student who was forced to suspend her studies at the University of Nottingham because of her involvement with a pro-life group is launching a formal complaint.

Julia Rynkiewicz, who was in her final year, was subjected to a four month long Fitness to Practise investigation over her involvement with the ‘Nottingham Students for Life’ society.

The Catholic student was suspended by the University pending the outcome of the investigation, which was ultimately dismissed by a Fitness to Practise Committee on 13 January.

However, her suspension meant she was unable to complete required assessments in time and she was forced to delay her studies.

Ms Rynkiewicz, who was supported by advocacy organisation ADF International during the investigation, has now lodged a complaint with the University and is considering her options.

Laurence Wilkinson, legal counsel for ADF International, commented, ‘Of all places, university is where students should be free to debate and explore ideas – even those with which they disagree.

‘In this case, Julia’s involvement with an affiliated pro-life society led to her fitness to practise being investigated.’

According to Mr Wilkinson, universities should embrace a diversity of views across the student body, but her treatment in this case represented ‘a very chilling prospect for freedom of speech on campus’.

Ms Rynkiewicz felt she was unfairly targeted for her beliefs and claimed there were significant procedural failures compromising the investigation.

Moreover, as a result of having to graduate a year later, she will be leaving university a year later than her friends and peers, and it is claimed she will not have any access to student finance.

In 2018, the Joint Committee on Human Rights in Parliament released a report on Freedom of Speech in Universities which criticised the ‘no-platforming’ policies on UK campuses, which were stifling debate around ‘unpopular’ opinions.

This comes as Merton College, Oxford, has been forced to back down over the draconian code of conduct it had applied to a debate about transgenderism.

Attendees at the Merton College event had to agree not to ‘undermine the validity of trans and gender diverse identities’.

This was heavily criticised by academics, forcing the college to remove the code of conduct and replacing it with a statement in support of freedom of thought and speech.