Where sex matters | Universities

Universities

Universities are creating an intimidating and hostile environment for staff and students who recognise that sex matters. They are not only being denied freedom of expression, but also suffering harassment and discrimination.

Photo of students taking notes by Startup Stock Photos from Pexels

The Reindorf Review and the Forstater case confirmed that it is unlawful to persecute university staff or students because of their beliefs about sex and gender. University leaders should be seeking to rebuild cultures of academic freedom and legal compliance. But it has become clear that many lack the courage or capacity to address the issue. 

What’s the problem? 

Almost all universities in the UK are members of the Stonewall Champions Scheme, and have shown that they will continue to discriminate against academics and students who uphold a distinction between sex and gender.

Academics are being targetted with bullying, harassment and no-platforming at universities across the UK (Sex Matters keeps a database of reports in the media). Many other cases have been reported in the public domain. 

October 2018: The Guardian published a letter from a network of more than 100 academics, most in UK universities, concerned about proposed government reforms to the Gender Recognition Act, and their interaction with the Equality Act.

May 2019: Imperial College London’s vice-provost apologised for liking tweets by the organisation Transgender Trend. 

April 2021: The LSE took no public action when it emerged that a department had promoted a student essay which fantasised about stabbing “TERFs”.

May 2021: Barrister Akua Reindorf’s review of no-platforming at the University of Essex highlighted a culture of fear, policies that violated the Equality Act, and institutionalised discrimination and intimidation by ‘trans rights activists’ within the LGBT group of the university. This should have been a wake-up call for university leadership…

July 2021: Instead, the Vice-Chancellor of Essex issued an extraordinary apology for releasing the review during Pride Month and to “anyone having been made to feel unsafe as a result of the review.” 

October 2021: Protests against Professor Kathleen Stock by a group of students at Sussex University attracted attention to a long-term campaign against her. Baroness Kishwer Falkner, Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), described the anonymous attacks on Professor Stock and the campaign to have her fired as “disgraceful”. 

There have been several open letters in support of Professor Stock, one by philosophers, one by legal academics

Sex Matters co-ordinated a letter calling on the EHRC to undertake a review of policies and practices in UK universities that impose a radical gender orthodoxy, and fail to protect those who recognise that sex is a real and important from bullying and harassment. The responses to that letter concerned us.

Updates

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    1st July 2022

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    23rd May 2022

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    25th February 2022

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    The government’s Insolvency Service is the latest organisation to leave Stonewall, stating in its internal communications: “Unfortunately, there are concerns around impartiality and upon review, we found that the contract did not represent value for money.” The Insolvency Service joins a growing list of companies and organisations who have...

    10th February 2022

  • “Should UCL subscribe to programmes and submit to an evaluation scheme that are politically and ideologically contested?”

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    UCL (University College London) has published the documents about its decision not to re-join Stonewall.

    1st February 2022

  • Exposing disinformation about Kathleen Stock

    The intensification of targeting of Professor Kathleen Stock attracted public attention to the long-term campaign against her, and to the larger issue of academic freedom. Claims have been circulating which seek to discredit her and those who support her. We assess each one.

    25th October 2021

  • A concerning response to the academics’ letter

    Signatories to our letter addressed to Baroness Kishwer Falkner at the Equality and Human Rights Commission have received correspondence criticising their decision to sign it, some of which we consider coercive, threatening or discriminatory.

    23rd October 2021

  • Academics write to the EHRC

    In the face of ongoing harassment and discrimination against university staff and students because of their beliefs on sex and gender 240 academics have written to Baroness Kishwer Falkner, Chair of the EHRC asking for the EHRC to undertake a “Reindorf Review” for the higher education sector. Download the...

    16th October 2021

  • Gender studies and sexualised threats

    Students of Gender Studies at the London School of Economics are taught to view sexualised threats against women in public life (if dressed up in the language of “queer”) as something to applaud.

    26th July 2021

  • Oxford’s submission to Stonewall

    We are pleased to announce that Michael Biggs, Associate Professor of Sociology at St Cross College, Oxford University, is joining the Sex Matters Board of Directors. Professor Biggs has written this post, as well as a letter to Professor Louise Richardson, Vice Chancellor of the University of Oxford, calling...

    6th June 2021

  • The Gender Wars, Academic Freedom and Education

    Guest blog post by Professors Alice Sullivan and Judith Suissa

    25th March 2021

  • Huddersfield University apologises for “transphobic tweets” investigation

    Huddersfield university has been forced to apologise and pay compensation to a PhD student after they subjected him to a lengthy disciplinary investigation over “transphobic” tweets. The University investigated Jonny Best for six months after a fellow student made an anonymous complaint about things he had written online. Best,...

    7th March 2021

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