Midwifery student probed over ‘pro-life’ views wins compensation

Nottingham agrees undisclosed settlement after undergraduate cleared by fitness-to-practise panel 

November 26, 2020
Source: eblind/iStock

A midwifery student has won an undisclosed settlement and apology from a UK university after she was investigated over her involvement with a student group that campaigned against abortion.

Julia Rynkiewicz submitted a formal complaint to the University of Nottingham after she faced a fitness-to-practise panel related to her presidency of a student society called Nottingham Students for Life.

ADF International, a faith-based legal organisation that supported Ms Rynkiewicz’s case, said concerns about her fitness to practise “centred on material available at the society’s freshers’ fair stall, as well as her public association with the society”.

Nottingham Students for Life, which ADF said was initially refused affiliation by the students’ union, describes itself online as a “pro-life society [which believes] that life should be protected from the moment of conception until natural death”.

Although a panel dismissed the allegations against her, she formally complained, believing that she was unfairly targeted for her beliefs and claiming there “were significant procedural failures compromising the investigation”, according to ADF.

In a statement, Nottingham said that “while all universities take fitness-to-practise considerations extremely seriously, the university has offered an apology and settlement to Ms Rynkiewicz and is considering how we might approach such cases differently in future.

“Universities should be spaces to debate, discuss and disagree points of view, and with more than 200 student societies, covering the full range of beliefs and perspectives, we are confident this is the case at Nottingham.” 

The statement also added that “the university and students’ union supports the rights of all students to bodily autonomy and access to safe, legal abortion services, which is the position in law”.

Ms Rynkiewicz said that “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.”

simon.baker@timeshigheducation.com

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