‘Bullying by trans student at Bristol University could cost me my visa’ The Times 24.08.19

The original article is here.

A Bristol University postgraduate student who made a complaint of bullying against a transgender student has faced a barrage of abuse and even “masked protesters” when she attended disciplinary hearings.

Raquel Rosario-Sanchez, 29, a PhD student from the Dominican Republic, complained to the university about being bullied by a trans student 18 months ago.

The harassment started two months after she arrived to begin her PhD at the university’s Centre for Gender and Violence Research, when she agreed to chair a meeting for the Woman’s Place UK group on campus, she said.

It escalated after formal disciplinary proceedings were launched by the university against the transgender student following Rosario-Sanchez’s complaint. Activists organised a series of protests, urging followers to give the PhD student “hell”.

Rosario-Sanchez said she had been threatened with violence and told she would have eggs and milkshakes thrown at her. She has also been called “heinous scum”.

“I no longer feel safe on campus. Most people who are subject to abuse by trans activists stay silent because if you file a complaint you undergo the campaign of threats I have experienced,” she said.

The university took more than a year to investigate. No disciplinary action was taken.

Last week The Sunday Times reported that around a dozen academics at universities including Oxford and Reading fear a silencing of their freedom of speech by students complaining they are transphobic.

Rosario-Sanchez’s PhD supervisor, Dr Emma Williamson, the head of the university’s Centre for Gender and Violence Research, said: “As members of staff, we cannot advise students to have confidence in the university’s complaints procedures if they do not deal with complaints in a timely, safe, transparent and fair way. I do not know what I can say to a student in future who is making a complaint about being bullied and who is fearful of their safety.”

Rosario-Sanchez says she has fallen behind in her PhD and missed her progress review because she was so stressed, which means she has missed the academic requirements to receive funding from the Dominican Republic. Without a scholarship she expects to either lose her visa or be forced to take out a large loan to pay for her studies. She said: “It took tremendous effort from all my family to help me get here. I remember being with my mum, so full of hope about coming to the UK to study. Someone stole my future and the university let them.”

The University of Bristol said: “We believe that every effort has been made to support Ms Rosario-Sanchez. Matters relating to individual disciplinary cases are confidential, therefore we are unable to make further comment.”