Students at Leeds University want staff to include gender pronouns at meetings and events

·3-min read
Leeds University’s Parkinson Building  (Wikimediacommons)
Leeds University’s Parkinson Building (Wikimediacommons)

Staff and students at Leeds University have said their vice-chancellor and other senior employees should include their preferred gender pronouns when introducing themselves in meetings.

They have also called for vice chancellor Simone Buitendijk to state her preferred gender pronouns in her email signature.

In a letter, the students and staff said both measures would show support for the transgender community working at the institution.

The letter’s signatories also accused the university of having a “deeply entrenched culture of transphobia”.

The letter, which was sent in August, called on the university to “rapidly address and effectively rectify the current discriminatory situation.”

According to The Times the letter said there was a “ hostile environment for trans staff and students,” on campus.

The university denies this claim.

The letter asked for “a culture which encourages the sharing of pronouns when, for example, in meetings and seminars.”

The university said: “We strongly deny the assertion that we have created a ‘hostile environment’ for transgender staff and students, but recognise that we need to do more to alleviate concerns that have been put to us and are working with our community to do so.

“We have a clear and unwavering commitment to ensuring equality, diversity and inclusion for all.

“The use of pronouns — in emails or in meetings — is a personal choice. We do not have policies on this, but do provide support and resources to help inform that choice.”

Ms Buitendijk took over the role in September at the start of the academic year.

It comes after a professor who caused a row over the views on gender identity decided to leave her job at the University of Sussex.

Kathleen Stock, a professor of philosophy at the University of Sussex, faced calls to be sacked amid accusations of transphobia.

But earlier this month, the University of Sussex vice-chancellor said the institution would not tolerate threats to “academic freedoms” following the campaign to remove Prof Stock from her position.

Prof Stock later announced that she will be leaving the University of Sussex after “an absolutely horrible time” and “a very difficult few years”.

An anonymous group, reportedly set up by students, launched a campaign to get Prof Stock sacked over her views on gender identification.

Posters calling for Prof Stock to be fired were reportedly put up near the campus, and an image emerged on social media of a campaigner holding a banner saying: “Stock Out”.

In an email to all staff, Prof Adam Tickell, the vice-chancellor of the University of Sussex, said: “The university has been consistent and clear that everyone in our community has the right to work and learn, free from bullying and harassment of any kind, which has not been the case for Professor Stock.

“We had hoped that Professor Stock would feel able to return to work, and we would have supported her to do so.

“She has decided that recent events have meant that this will not be possible, and we respect and understand that decision.”

The Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan, called it a “sad day for freedom of speech” as she reiterated the importance of the Government’s Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill passing through Parliament.

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