Selina Todd: feminism professor in trans row defended by free-speech activists The Times 03.03.20

The original article is here.

Free speech campaigners have complained after an academic was forced out of a conference she had helped to organise at Oxford University following pressure from trans activists.

Selina Todd, a professor of modern history who focuses on working-class women, was to give a speech at Exeter College on Saturday to mark 50 years since the inaugural Women’s Liberation conference at Ruskin College. The event went ahead with her name deleted from the programme.

Professor Todd’s links to Women’s Place UK, which campaigns for separate spaces and services for women, were said to be behind the decision. The organisation has been criticised by trans activists for opposing changes to the Gender Recognition Act.

Professor Todd, a tutorial fellow at St Hilda’s College, wrote on Twitter on Friday night: “Just been no-platformed from this event commemorating 50 years since Ruskin women’s liberation movement conference because of my connection with Women’s Place UK.

“My mum and dad met at Ruskin. My mum is a proud feminist. So am I. My first academic article was about the women’s liberation movement.”

She later said the event had been organised by the Oxford International Women’s Festival and that she was “stunned” to have been no-platformed. “The organisers say this is because of pressure from trans activists . . . I refute the allegation that I am transphobic.”

She said that she handed out copies of her speech outside the event, which brought together activists from the 1970 conference.

A spokeswoman for the festival said that it was not involved with organising or planning the conference.

The journalist Toby Young, speaking for the Free Speech Union, which he founded, has put in a formal complaint to Exeter College. He said: “This decision is a clear breach of the Exeter College code of practice on freedom of speech.”

Exeter College said it had played no role in taking decisions about the programme or its speakers, and that it would investigate Young’s complaint.

Sir Edward Leigh, the Conservative MP for Gainsborough, has written to Michelle Donelan, the universities minister, asking her to investigate and to state her commitment to free speech.

Students and graduates of Oxford said that they were “utterly ashamed” by Professor Todd’s treatment. Ruskin College has said that it would not have silenced her and that she had an open invitation to speak on any aspect of feminism.

Another academic said she was welcome to speak at University College London, and that “Oxford colleagues should know that no-platforming scholars and attacking academic freedom is just bullying and intimidation by another name”.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “Universities are required by law to uphold freedom of speech, allowing academics, students and visiting speakers to challenge ideas and discuss controversial subjects. We have made clear that if universities do not uphold free speech, the government will.”