by Julie Bindel
Wednesday, 11
August 2021

The University of Essex abandons its faculty to ideologues

The institution has rowed back on its apology to two gender critical academics
by Julie Bindel
Jo Phoenix supposedly made transgender staff feel physically unsafe for her views on gender

The University of Essex is fast becoming an example of what happens when institutions capitulate to extreme transgender ideology.

In May the university apologised to two female academics for preventing them from taking part in seminars following baseless accusations of transphobia. The university admitted that they had made “serious mistakes” to Professors Freedman and Phoenix, who are not employed by Essex, and in a damning report, barrister Akua Reindorf criticised the university’s actions. The Vice Chancellor assured both academics that recommendations in the report would be actioned.

But it appears that either he has caved to pressure from staff and students, or that such assurances were part of a PR strategy designed to encourage the professors not to take matters further.

Following the publication of the report, an open letter was sent to the Vice Chancellor by Essex staff and students complaining that the Reindorf report would have a “significant negative impact on student and staff wellbeing”. Minutes from the Senate (the governing academic body) discussing the review were subsequently leaked to the Universities and Colleges Union. Shortly thereafter, widespread complaints and Freedom of Information requests about the report and apology were sent. Within six weeks, the VC apologised to staff and students for releasing the report — before exams and during pride month no less — and for “anyone having been made to feel unsafe as a result of the Review”.

In the latest episode of this shameful debacle, last week the university informed Freedman and Phoenix that it plans to publish their personal data that had previously been redacted. The two academics told me that, according to the university, they made transgender and nonbinary staff and students feel physically unsafe. Why? For simply holding the views that sex is immutable and that spaces like prisons should remain segregated according to biological sex. 

This is part of an ongoing pattern of behaviour from many universities across the UK and elsewhere. Feminist and human rights academic experts are routinely hounded, cancelled and even blacklisted. They deal with calls to have them fired from their jobs and face Kafkaesque trials based on pernicious and spurious complaints to their employers. They are told that they make students and staff terrified as a result of their mere presence on campus. And while the University of Essex appeared to be taking these issues seriously, what has happened to Freedman and Phoenix shows how much power the trans lobby has when it comes to academic institutions. The VC has done a U-turn and appears to have caved to pressure.

Despite the initial apology, the University has done nothing to remedy the appalling treatment of Freedman and Phoenix. Essex told Phoenix that it was ruling out any possibility of investigating the violent, potentially illegal, threats made against her by a student.

The University has power and resources, including access to legal advisers. The professors have no recourse to justice via the Employment Tribunal because they’re not employed by Essex. But if they were, they would have a strong claim based on discrimination grounds.

Yet at the same time, to bring a claim requires them to put their homes on the line. Their reputations were badly damaged by the University’s actions, and for the VC to ‘apologise’ for the Reindorf report and then threaten to release personal data is nothing short of a disgrace.

The University of Essex has been contacted for comment.

Join the discussion

  • Permit me to put in a word for my own marginalized group: we of the trans-species, oppressed by having been born in a human body when we feel we really belong to a different species. Personally, I feel myself to really be a Himalay Snow Leopard, except on weekends, when I am a Hibiscus plant. Anyone who addresses me as anything else makes both of us feel unsafe.

  • Something similar also recently occurred at Cardiff University. A number of academics signed an open letter to the vice chancellor, encouraging the university to cut ties with Stonewall as a number of other institutions have done over concerns that the organisation has too much influence and is stifling free debate on these issues. As a result, the academics in question came under attack by idealogues from the university Anarchist society and other groups. It was honestly quite chilling. Not sure what’s happened since as it’s gone quiet. Worrying times though.

  • The vast majority of m-to-f ‘transgender women’ are transvestites. Contrary to the I’m-suffering-because-I-was-born-in-the-wrong-body myth, they are quite happy to retain their functional and functioning male bodies, while claiming the right to be regarded as women and thus to have access to women’s spaces. Is it transphobic to object to male-bodied people having access to these spaces? Perhaps androphobic is a more accurate term.
    The trans movement has been very successful (1) in perpetuating the born-in-the-wrong-body narrative (i.e. it’s like a birth defect, so deserving of sympathy); (2) in conflating ‘sex’ with ‘gender’ (the media, e.g. the BBC, have gone along with this – shame on them); and (3) in convincing the gullible public that identifying as a woman is the same as being one….

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