A PhD student has lost her legal case against a university after claiming she suffered harassment and bullying from trans rights activists.
Raquel Rosario Sanchez, 32, sued the University of Bristol for failing to protect her after she was targeted over her involvement with a campaign group called Woman’s Place UK.
Critics have accused of being anti-trans.
A judge has now dismissed her claim against the university for damages in contract, negligence and equality laws over the way it handled her complaints about being targeted.
Accused of ‘spreading hate’
Ms Rosario Sanchez, whose academic background is in feminism, began her PhD course in autumn 2017, researching men who pay for sex.
Activists had protested against a talk she gave and labelled her a “terf” – a trans-exclusionary radical feminist – and claimed she was “spreading hate about trans people”.
Ms Rosario Sanchez said both her mental health and her academic performance suffered as a result of online attacks that began in February 2018.
One student, known only as AA, faced disciplinary proceedings for alleged harassment, a hearing in February at the Bristol Civil Justice Centre was told.
In one social media post, AA wrote: “I’m gonna eat pizza in bed. And with every bite my solid mass of queerness will grow denser… all the better to punch them terfs with.”
Disciplinary proceedings were dropped in spring 2019 due to AA’s worsening mental health.
Judge Alex Ralton said: “The university accepts that Ms Rosario Sanchez was the victim of unacceptable behaviour, particularly in the form of AA’s threat of violence.”
‘No evidence of malice’
The judge said that some of the behaviour Ms Rosario thought was “unacceptable” was allowed in the “form of free speech – albeit offensive and rude – such as the use of the acronym terf”.
However, he said, Ms Rosario Sanchez “was not carefully informed and guided” about the disciplinary process.
Although her complaints “could have been progressed in a much better fashion”, as the university had recognised, he said there was “no evidence of any malice on the part of any member of staff of the university” towards her.
‘I feel at peace’
Ms Rosario Sanchez said she is pleased the university had recognised her concerns about her personal safety.
“I cannot emphasise enough how at peace I feel knowing that this dark cloud that has hung over my head every day is now gone,” she said.
“I did not deserve years of intimidation for daring to chair a feminist meeting or for defending sex-based feminism. Nobody does.”
The university said: “From the outset, we have sought to remain neutral in our management of this conflict and to follow our internal complaints procedure.
“While we are pleased the judge found this to be the case, dismissing all claims made against us, we acknowledge that this has been an incredibly challenging period for everyone involved.”
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