University breached the Professors’ rights

Cancellations rebuked:

The University of Essex has today published Akua Reindorf’s Review of two events involving external speakers, concerning the controversy surrounding events at which Professor Jo Phoenix (Open University) and Professor Rosa Freedman (University of Reading) had been invited to speak.

The report concludes that the University breached the Professors’ rights to freedom of expression because of preconceptions about their views on trans rights and gender identity.

It was in breach of statutory duties and its own policies.

In Professor Phoenix’s case, a seminar which she was due to give in December 2019 was cancelled at the last minute because of threats of disruption. A flyer was circulated in the University bearing an image of a cartoon character pointing a gun and the words “SHUT THE F*** UP, TERF”. The report concluded that proper use of the University’s external speaker notification procedure would have averted the last minute panic which resulted in the cancellation. Thereafter, a decision was taken to not invite Professor Phoenix to give another seminar because of concerns that she would engage in “hate speech” against trans people. The report concluded that this amounted to blacklisting and was unlawful, and that there was no reasonable basis for thinking that Professor Phoenix might use unlawful speech of any kind.

That’s the thing about the category of “hate speech” against trans people – it’s defined so very broadly by the people who accuse that when an adult looks into it, it turns out to be a great big zero. Children squawk “But she will hate-speak!!!” and for some unfathomable reason institutions jump to disinvite and shun the invited speaker while the children celebrate another victory.

Professor Freedman was invited to take part in a roundtable discussion in January 2020 on the subject of The State of Antisemitism Today, as part of the University’s Holocaust Memorial Week event. After concerns were raised about her views on sex and gender the invitation was effectively rescinded. A member of the University posted a tweet comparing her views to Holocaust denial. The report concluded that the withdrawal of the invitation to Professor Freedman was particularly egregious because she had been invited to speak on a matter which was entirely unconnected to sex and gender and which was of particular personal significance to her.

But the children wanted her punished, and what the children want, the children get. Why is that? When the quality of their thought is so crude and empty, why is that?

he University’s apologies to the Professors and the actions which it intends to take in response to the report’s recommendations have been published on its website. The University intends to implement all of the recommendations save for the recommendation that it give consideration to the relative benefits and disbenefits of its relationship with Stonewall in light of the drawbacks and potential illegalities identified in the report as having arisen from that relationship.

That’s unfortunate. Stonewall is terrible. Universities should walk away from it – they should “disinvite” it, as it were.

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