An Oxford University college has been instructed to protect freedom of speech properly after a history professor was no-platformed following pressure from pro-trans activists.
Selina Todd had been due to speak at the Exeter College event marking the 50th anniversary of the Women’s Liberation Conference, but her invitation was rescinded after she was accused of ‘transphobia’.
A complaints panel has now told the college that it must take action to ensure that no one’s right to freedom of speech is infringed again.
Todd does not believe that a man can become a woman simply by self-identifying as one, and was “stunned” when she was told she would not be permitted to speak the evening before the conference.
Professor Sir Rick Trainor, Rector of Exeter College, called the incident “deeply regrettable” and accepted the need to take action. He said the college would revise its policies “as a matter of urgency, in consultation with the university”.
Michelle Donelan MP, Minister of State for Universities, has warned that the Government may change the law to ensure universities and colleges uphold free speech. Individual colleges at Oxford and Cambridge are currently exempt from the requirement under the 1986 Education Act.
Michael Biggs, Associate Professor in Sociology at Oxford, said Todd’s case is “the tip of the iceberg”, adding: “There is a real fear hanging over people with dissident opinions that they may not get jobs. Colleges need to promote academic freedom.”
Last month, Dr Eva Poen of the University of Exeter was accused of ‘abhorrent bigotry’ after she posted on social media that only women can have periods.
In response to a post on Twitter calling for a fitness app to change its wording from ‘female health’ to ‘menstrual health’, she said: “Only female people menstruate. Only female people go through menopause. ‘Female health’ is exactly what this is about.”
A student complained to the university, claiming her comments were making transgender people “live in fear” and that she should “stop spreading vitriol”.
But the academic said the accusations against her were completely false, saying: “There is an important political and academic debate to be had about sex and gender; we ought to be able to have this in a rigorous, robust, but also respectful manner.”