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Oxford University says it won’t drop anti-trans and misogynist texts because free speech is more important than protecting people from hate

Emma Powys Maurice May 6, 2020
Hundreds of Oxford students condemn choice of 'transphobic' professors

The University of Oxford has been called on to improve the welfare of its transgender and non-binary students. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Oxford University has turned down a proposal from its Students’ Union to remove “hateful” transphobic material from its courses.

The proposed ‘academic hate speech motion’ asked for Oxford’s current free speech policy to be amended to protect the disabled, those from working class backgrounds, women, trans and non-binary people.

If accepted, the motion have would offered “equivalent protection” from hate speech in university contexts as that which is offered to groups protected by criminal law.

It would also have stopped “hateful” material from being included in mandatory teaching. The SU also lobbied for trigger warnings on readings lists, lectures, tutorials and examinations with content deemed prejudicial.

Materials with such warnings would be made non-compulsory for those who didn’t want to engage with the content.

Oxford rejects hate motion speech.

Oxford rejected the hate speech motion citing the value of free thought in academia.

“Free speech is the lifeblood of a university. It enables the pursuit of knowledge. It helps us approach truth,” a spokesperson told The Oxford Blue.

While the university acknowledged that “not all theories deserve equal respect”, it argued that they should also be exposed to evidence, questioning and argument, and that speakers should not be “intimidated or censored”.

Among the materials which will remain uncensored are articles on the medical law and ethics course which the SU says advocate for “the moral duty not to have disabled children”.

The SU Disability Campaign said that the university’s response was “unsatisfactory”, warning that the nature of some content that could “adversely affect students”.

Oxford University had previously been accused of fostering anti-trans views after Selina Todd, a teacher with ties to the “trans-exclusionary hate group” Women’s Place UK, was platformed at a conference.

When several trans allies promptly withdrew from the event, Todd was asked by organisers not to speak, causing outrage among anti-trans spheres.

 

 

More: freedom of speech, hate speech, oxford university, selina todd, transphobia, Women's Place UK

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