Oxford college backs down in trans free speech row

An Oxford college has backed down over a controversial code of conduct for an upcoming debate about transgenderism.

Attendees at the Merton College event had to agree not to “undermine the validity of trans and gender diverse identities”.

Academics described the policy as “draconian” and accused the college of supressing “gender-critical thought”.

’Dangerous precedent’

Prof Selina Todd, of St Hilda’s College, said she was “stunned” by the rule, arguing that it set a “dangerous precedent”.

The college has since removed the code of conduct and replaced it with a statement in support of free speech.

It said: “The University and College prioritise the protection both of academic freedom and of their members from unlawful discrimination.”

Free to disagree

Sussex University’s Prof Kathleen Stock, said: “I’m really glad Oxford has responded so quickly to make sure the value of academic freedom is upheld, and legal duty complied with.”

She added: “If I give a talk criticising the idea of an inner feeling of gender identity, I expect the audience to be able to disagree – the same should apply to academic events supportive of the idea of gender identity.”

The story comes as the Head of Education at Policy Exchange said it was time the Government took steps to tackle “the tyrannical silencing of free speech” on university campuses.

Iain Mansfield accused universities of “deliberately creating a hostile environment for those with dissenting political views”.

Free speech

He called on the Government to fulfil its manifesto commitment to free speech and ensure that universities are “the promoters, not the limiters, of free speech and independent inquiry”.

Mansfield was responding to news that Sheffield University has announced a scheme to pay students £9.34 an hour to challenge so-called micro-aggressions.

He argued that the plan, from the university which expelled Felix Ngole, was evidence of “deeply rooted institutional intolerance”.

The Court of Appeal ruled against the University last year saying that merely expressing disagreement with same-sex marriage does not amount to discrimination.

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