University of Essex acted unlawfully in cancelling speakers

The Gazette News reports:

A UNIVERSITY has admitted it made “serious mistakes” after two professors were blocked from taking part in seminars over accusations of transphobia.

The University of Essex has issued an apology after a report found it acted unlawfully by blacklisting a professor.

It also withdrew an invitation extended to another professor after her views were compared to ‘hate speech.’

In December 2019, Professor Jo Phoenix, of the Open University, had been due to speak at the university on the subject of ‘Trans rights, imprisonment and the criminal justice system.’

The Times newspaper reported some university staff members had accused the professor of being ‘anti-trans’ and ‘exclusionary.’

Tracey Loughran, a historian at Essex University, took to social media to say: “This speaker is part of anti-trans platform.

“Free speech is one thing, but trans rights are human rights and we shouldn’t be debating human rights.

“The campus must be a safe space for trans people. There’s a speaker vetting policy, how did this slip through?”

In a damning independent report, recently released to the public, barrister Akua Reindorf said some people felt “unsafe and threatened” by the prospect of the professor appearing on campus.

The report said there was a “credible threat” students planned to barricade the room, while a flyer circulated bearing a violent image and profanities directed at the professor.

The seminar was cancelled and the university issued an apology to the trans community.

The report found the cancellation amounted to a breach of the professor’s right to freedom of expression and the university’s legal duties to uphold this right.

The report added: “The later decision to exclude and blacklist Prof Phoenix was also unlawful.

“There was no reasonable basis for thinking that Prof Phoenix would engage in harassment or any other kind of unlawful speech.

“The decision was unnecessary and disproportionate.

“Moreover the violent flyer was wholly unacceptable and should have been the subject of a timely disciplinary investigation.”

We see this constantly. People claim a speaker makes them feel unsafe and that certain issues are beyond debate.

Well done to Essex for commissioning in the independent review, and apologising. The review report is here and worth reading, Every university should take note of it.

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