Where sex matters | 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”. Later that month, she resigned.

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

In October 2021, 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.

February 2022: PhD student Raquel Rosario-Sánchez launched a civil action against Bristol University, saying bosses did not tackle transactivists who subjected her to a two-year “hate campaign”.


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