by Kristina Murkett
Thursday, 20
May 2021
Campus Wars
07:00

The University of Essex turns on Stonewall

The group's misrepresentation of the law is a cautionary tale
by Kristina Murkett
Credit: Getty

This week the University of Essex published an open apology to two female professors who it had no-platformed in December 2019 due to their gender-critical views. The university also published a full report replete with recommendations and future actions. These are interesting for two reasons.

Firstly, the findings are damning of Stonewall, who they blame for undermining the “university’s obligations to uphold freedom of expression” and giving an “incorrect summary of the law” and “misleading policies”. In short, Stonewall annually reviews the University’s ‘Supporting Trans and Non Binary Staff’ policy, and it seems that they advised the university that gender-critical academics can legitimately be excluded from the institution. However, this was an “erroneous understanding of equality law” — gender identity is not a protected characteristic under the Equalities Act 2010 — and the examples of harassment suggested in the policy were not actually unlawful.

One of the university’s subsequent recommendations is that “the University should give careful and thorough consideration to the relative benefits and disbenefits of its relationship with Stonewall” and should “devise a strategy for countering the drawbacks and potential illegalities.” Stonewall’s flagrant misrepresentation of the law is a cautionary tale for those who champion them, and will be another blow to the charity, whose reputation is in free fall.

Less than two weeks ago an open letter was sent to the EHRC calling for a “review of the role of Stonewall in public life and its influence and control over the organisational HR policies and wider business of public institutions”. For many, these findings are confirmation of Stonewall’s toxicity. Dennis Noel Kavanagh, legal commentator at Lesbian and Gay News, called Stonewall “a bloated tyrant drunk on power, incautious with language and reckless,” and said that the findings are proof that they have “degenerated and metastasised the mainstream gay movement into a virulent homophobic and misogynistic juggernaut.”

Secondly, the decision matters because it suggests that the way to ‘cancel’ cancel culture is not through more legislation — as the government is currently proposing  but through precedent. It may have taken eighteen months, but the University of Essex’s decision is a victory for common sense and will hopefully embolden academic leaders to value diversity of thought without the need for blunt statutory tools.

In the ongoing battles over gender identity, this matters. The university could have extended its apology even further — for example, by inviting the speakers back, or clarifying that they have taken action with the students who distributed a violent and threatening flyer against one of the professors before the event — but it is a step in the right direction, and hopefully more universities will follow Essex’s lead.

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Terry Needham
Terry Needham
1 year ago

Why is a university inviting a pressure group to provide an annual review of the university’s policies in the first place? If the academic leaders of Essex University cannot run Essex University without advice from Stonewall, I wonder why they remain in post.

Last edited 1 year ago by Terry Needham
Dixie Hughes
Dixie Hughes
1 year ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

My thoughts exactly; surely there must be a capable lawyer or two amongst them…

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
1 year ago
Reply to  Dixie Hughes

Stonewall have to make money so when LGB problems were sorted out they took up T as the new marginalized group.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
1 year ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

Mary Harrington has written about this in today’s M on S concerning a test case against Stonewall. Theres a lot of money for groups who provide diversity training and the like to institutions. There used to be similar things with team building schemes until some ‘teams’ got unwell as not used to so much exercise as climbing mountains etc.

Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
1 year ago

Looks like the fightback has started. Good.

mike otter
mike otter
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

Its going to be a long fight. Hate and its identical twin ignorance are as eternal as their opposites. What interests me is how the left and Labour sunk so low and so fast. From the Powell era to early Thatcher the Tories always had the whiff of Volkism and homophobia – as well as enthusiasm for violence in the hanging and flogging sense. Now they are the hoody hugging, multi cultural tax and spend brigade.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
1 year ago
Reply to  mike otter

“From the Powell era to early Thatcher the Tories always had the whiff of Volkism and homophobia – as well as enthusiasm for violence in the hanging and flogging sense.”

A leftist caricature. I do not recognise these traits, and I have never, ever, been a ‘Tory’.

Last edited 1 year ago by Arnold Grutt
mike otter
mike otter
1 year ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

Read about the Smethwick by-election in ’64…At least the legendary leaflets weren’t the work of the Tories. I have always (since adulthood) been a Tory. Doesn’t mean i am comfortable with some of the old right’s social conservatism, but if i have to choose i prefer that to Labour and Limp Dims road to serfdom.

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
1 year ago
Reply to  mike otter

“I have always (since adulthood) been a Tory.”
Really Mike? You sound like a Woke on manoeuvres.

JohnW
JohnW
1 year ago

As an alumnus, I was sent a copy of the report by the Vice Chancellor’s office with a (sort of) apology for the university’s behaviour. I replied:
“Thank you for the explanation. When I applied to Essex back in the 1970s, Essex was the only UK university that my school would not allow us to apply to. The (very conservative) school feared we would be exposed to dangerous ideas. That’s why I applied. It’s shocking that Essex, of all places, should have devolved to censoring speakers and calling for whole areas of inquiry to be prohibited.
The report is a beginning, and the apology is a tiny step in the right direction. Now grow some [censored by unherd] and make Essex what it was set up to be: a forum for all opinions, however controversial.”

Last edited 1 year ago by JohnW
JohnW
JohnW
1 year ago
Reply to  JohnW

Incidentally, the email was unironically signed thus: WE ARE ESSEX 

CHALLENGING CONVENTION SINCE 1964

Richard Powell
Richard Powell
1 year ago
Reply to  JohnW

A very good comment. I wonder what Unherd censored, presumably in order to protect readers’ delicate sensibilities. I for one don’t subscribe in order to read other people’s views in bowdlerised form and hope the editors are not going to make a habit of this.

Dixie Hughes
Dixie Hughes
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Powell

“Spheres” perhaps…

JohnW
JohnW
1 year ago
Reply to  Dixie Hughes

Think tennis.

mark taha
mark taha
1 year ago
Reply to  JohnW

When were you there?

JohnW
JohnW
1 year ago
Reply to  mark taha

1973-76.

Richard Starkey
Richard Starkey
1 year ago

I’m afraid Kristina appears to have misunderstood the position of Essex University.
The University commissioned an independent report by a barrister. It was the barrister who recommended that the University consider its relationship with Stonewall. In response to this recommendation, the University wrote

Stonewall has been a valued University partner and we have been working with Stonewall across a wide range of issues. We will review how we address the specific issues raised in the report. We want to work with Stonewall and others, as the University takes steps, within the context of Action 10, to repair relationships amongst University members.

So whilst the University can hardly be said to have turned on Stonewall, the independent report is hopefully a landmark which will help to turn the tide on wokeism.

Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
1 year ago

So instead of taking legal advice from a pressure group, they’re taking it from a lawyer. It’s progress of a sort I suppose.

Andrew Harvey
Andrew Harvey
1 year ago

Stonewall has degenerated into a racketeering mafia. It’s pay-up or suffer an onslaught of bad PR being accused of homophobia and transphobia. One of Stonewall’s biggest funders is the Premier League — the most homophobic organization in the UK. There’s been one openly out and gay player in the Premier League in its history, and he was hounded into killing himself. But that’s all OK with Stonewall because they get a nice, shiny wad of cash for pinkwashing the Premier League’s activities.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Harvey
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Harvey

There is a long list of other such government funded grifting organizations

mark taha
mark taha
1 year ago

with the need to cut spending some time how about starting with them-now/

Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
1 year ago

I cannot understand why the government should fund any pressure group. Tax is levied on the public to enable the state to provide services, not propaganda. There should be no public funding whatsoever for charities of any sort.

Last edited 1 year ago by Seb Dakin
Peter LR
Peter LR
1 year ago

This deliberate misrepresentation of the Equality Act is also being employed in school training sessions by groups to try and neutralise questioning of unscientific claims.

Simon Baggley
Simon Baggley
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter LR

About being born in the wrong body for instance

Jeremy Poynton
Jeremy Poynton
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Baggley

Did you ever hear such carp? Your body IS you, it embodies your spirit and is your only interface to the world and other human beings. I am beyond SICK of this.

arthur.shehla17
arthur.shehla17
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Baggley

Simon, no-one is “born in the wrong body”. Almost every scientist with any integrity will say that there is no ‘gay gene’. Period. In fact, a huge recent study has found this to be the case. Any apparent propensity to it, accounts for less than 1% and that, in my view, is questionable. So, it’s time to dispense with this notion.

Last edited 1 year ago by arthur.shehla17
Andrew Shaughnessy
Andrew Shaughnessy
1 year ago

The first crack in the dam? We can but hope.

JohnW
JohnW
1 year ago

[spelling censored]

Last edited 1 year ago by JohnW
JohnW
JohnW
1 year ago

Or the second crack in the dike?

Last edited 1 year ago by JohnW
Jeremy Poynton
Jeremy Poynton
1 year ago

Long overdue. Quite why any government, never mind a “Conservative” (ha ha ha) government spunking taxpayers’ money on groups such as Stonewall, Mermaids and all the gender crazy fanatics to go into the public sector and encourage them to disregard the law.
All our institutions seem now to be infested with parasites.

I recommend Paraquat.

mike otter
mike otter
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Poynton

Its a hard call but since they used bio weapons (covid) i suppose the doctrine of just war allows paraquat, or even napalm. Though considering the threat to the environment from dichlorins, naptha and palmitic acid perhaps manual methods would be better?

Robin Banks
Robin Banks
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Poynton

Our governments fund/employ pressure groups so that they can appear to be pressurised into actions they wanted to perform anyway.

simpsonlisaann
simpsonlisaann
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Poynton

Drink it yourself bigot.

mike otter
mike otter
1 year ago

The University of Essex using the term “disbenefits” for disadvantages tells you all you need to know. Stonewall is not the only bloated tyrant drunk on power. Unis like Essex, Kent and Sussex etc need to be closed down and the few worthwhile vocational or STEM courses and staff they have moved to other local unis ( ie ex Polys and HE colleges)

Last edited 1 year ago by mike otter
JohnW
JohnW
1 year ago
Reply to  mike otter

If you think Essex is bad, try Oxford.

mike otter
mike otter
1 year ago
Reply to  JohnW

Yes i know it well, i work with 2 of their science departments and the tales they tell me are toe curling, straight out of 40s USSR.

Alison Wren
Alison Wren
1 year ago
Reply to  mike otter

As a biologist I am increasingly scared of transideology. It’s even taken hold in medical schools across the Pond, Maybe the fact that Covid hits males far harder than females ( and many many other differences between the sexes) might wake some people up.

simpsonlisaann
simpsonlisaann
1 year ago
Reply to  Alison Wren

Actually that might go the other way if estrogen is the protective factor.

This sample of one supposedly clinically extremely vulnerable trans had covid and felt uncomfortable for about 6 hours.

Shows how little biologists know about medicine and disease.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
1 year ago

Very good news. The tide is really beginning to turn against wokeness.

Susannah Baring Tait
Susannah Baring Tait
1 year ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

I think when it does, it will be a full on tsunami. And the Stonewall type communities will only have themselves to blame.

J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

I hope you’re right, but this seems like a particularly tepid apology.

Richard Starkey
Richard Starkey
1 year ago

I’m afraid Kristina appears to have misunderstood the position of Essex University.
The University commissioned an independent report by a barrister. It was the barrister who recommended that the University consider its relationship with Stonewall. In response to this recommendation, the University wrote

Stonewall has been a valued University partner and we have been working with Stonewall across a wide range of issues. We will review how we address the specific issues raised in the report. We want to work with Stonewall and others, as the University takes steps, within the context of Action 10, to repair relationships amongst University members.

So whilst the University can hardly be said to have turned on Stonewall, the independent report is hopefully a landmark which will help to turn the tide on wokeism.

Last edited 1 year ago by Richard Starkey
arthur.shehla17
arthur.shehla17
1 year ago

Thanks for pointing that out. So, not quite so promising as it first appeared…

bhpp7jzq4g
bhpp7jzq4g
1 year ago

Very good and clear article. But a much more serious problem than official no platform policies is the fear that expressing unfashionable opinions will damn any hope of young academics getting real jobs, or promotion. Since universities employ many young academics on what are in effect zero-hours contracts they can be excluded at the whim of senior colleagues with no explanation given. No wonder they keep quiet.

Guglielmo Marinaro
Guglielmo Marinaro
1 year ago

Stonewall did a great deal of useful, indeed essential, work in the past. Since it was trans-jacked a few years ago, it has turned into a destructive organization which pushes a pernicious, anti-scientific “gender” ideology and seeks to bully dissenters into silence. Its charitable status should be cancelled forthwith.

John Standing
John Standing
1 year ago

You have to go back to the AIDS crisis to find any useful work by Stonewall.

jucameron43
jucameron43
1 year ago

Essex has always attracted members of London’s “rent a mob”. A “plate glass university”, it was established in 1963. Within five years it was in the forefront of UK students’ ultra-violent 1960s demonstrations on every conceivable topic. From the very start its thuggish students prevented invited speakers from taking part in debates. It holds the unenviable record of being the first British university forced to call in the police and dogs to control its revolting students who had been rioting for days.
In 2015 Dame Marina Warner, chair of Booker Prize compared Essex to “the world of Chinese communist corporatism where enforcers rush to carry out the latest orders from their chiefs in an ecstasy of obedience to ideological principles which they do not seem to have examined, let alone discussed with the people they order to follow them, whom they cashier when they won’t knuckle under.”
It is rightly described as “a place that promotes divisive competition, false economies and philistine instrumentality”.

aidanjohn7701
aidanjohn7701
1 year ago

Good for them!

Trishia A
Trishia A
1 year ago

This is great news! That org has had its time, it’s time to go!

Andre Lower
Andre Lower
1 year ago

About time it happened. Let’s hope the pushback on radical wokery picks up speed.

mark taha
mark taha
1 year ago

I was at Essex 1977-80. They’re still suppressing free speech,it seems.

Dean Barwell
Dean Barwell
1 year ago

If a Professor had expressed a nasty and violent opinion on gays, let alone distributed it in flyer form, gross misconduct, dismissal and career ruination would quite rightly have been instant. That the students responsible for such literature in the opposite direction have not been dealt precisely that (a life lesson rather than a Twitter lesson) is where the core problem is. The tail wagging the dog needs to be abruptly and severely docked. University heads need to make it very clear that they run the joint and the students attend it. Discuss, disagree, debate by all means, but jackboot stomping your blinkered no life experience opinion on everyone around will be met with the contempt it deserves. The Government must support this by clearly stating that any places of higher learning supporting or bowing down to minority mob rule will have funding swiftly cut off.

arthur.shehla17
arthur.shehla17
1 year ago
Reply to  Dean Barwell

I agree, and am astounded by the disregard and passive acceptance of the bullying tactics (and worse) by the LGBT activists. They seem to be able to do or say anything with impunity and those in charge are too afraid to call them out and act as they would with anyone else.

arthur.shehla17
arthur.shehla17
1 year ago

Amongst the array of universities championing trans and gay ideology whilst de-platforming, vilifying, excluding, shaming, and outright attacking those who do not go along with such thinking, it is refreshing to at last come across a university that is prepared to take an honest look at its policies and behaviour. They could have gone further, as has been noted, but one thing is clear: Stonewall needs to be stonewalled and not allowed anywhere near universities which are supposed to be bastions of freedom of thought and expression.