Trans Goldsmiths lecturer Natacha Kennedy behind smear campaign against academics by Lucy Bannerman in the Times 08.09.18

The original article is here.

A transgender lecturer orchestrated a smear campaign against academics across the UK in which universities were described as dangerous and accused of “hate crime” if they refused to accept activists’ views that biological males can be women, it can be revealed.

Natacha Kennedy, a researcher at Goldsmiths University of London who is also understood to work there under the name Mark Hellen, faces accusations of a “ludicrous” assault on academic freedom after she invited thousands of members of a closed Facebook group to draw up and circulate a list shaming academics who disagreed with campaigners’ theories on gender.

The online forum, seen by The Times, also revealed that members plotted to accuse non-compliant professors of hate crime to try to have them ousted from their jobs. Reading, Sussex, Bristol, Warwick and Oxford universities were among those deemed to have “unsafe” departments because they employed academics who had publicly disputed the belief that “transwomen are women” or questioned the potential impact of proposed changes to gender laws on women and children.

Ms Kennedy said that the list was necessary so students could avoid accepting a place on a “dangerous” course.

Aimee Challenor, the former Green Party candidate who used her father as her election agent even though he was facing charges of raping and torturing a ten-year-old girl, for which he was later jailed, was among those who responded to Ms Kennedy’s post of August 14 to the Trans Rights UK Facebook group, with suggestions of who to blacklist. All the named academics were women.

Members of the group claimed that the philosophy department of the University of Sussex was “clearly an unsafe environment” because of the presence of Kathleen Stock, a professor who has argued against redefining the category of woman and lesbian to include men.

“File a hate crime report against her, and then the chairman and vice-chair,” advised one. “Drag them over the f***ing coals.”

Rosa Freedman, an expert in human rights law at the University of Reading, had also upset activists by saying that biological males should not have access to a women’s refuge. One activist said she tried to lodge a complaint but was told that Professor Freedman had a right to free speech. “I’m replying a little more strongly and using the words ‘hate speech’ a few times,” she told the group. Another activist suggested: “Use the words . . . ‘So Reading University supports staff who use hate speech against students?’ ”

Professor Freedman told The Times: “We are talking about the aggressive trolling of women who are experts. I have received penis pictures telling me to ‘suck my girl cock’. This is straight-up, aggressive, anti-woman misogyny. In no way have I made the space unsafe. I find it deeply distressing that an academic would set out to smear my name and impugn my reputation, simply because I put forward a perspective, based on robust and specific evidence, with which they disagree. That is not academia. That is silencing people.

“The idea that writing about women’s rights automatically becomes a hate crime in some people’s eyes is ludicrous. All it has done has made me more determined to write about this, in a respectful way that allows other perspectives to come through, and not just the views of those who shout the loudest.”

Professor Stock said: “What would make a philosophy department unsafe is if its academics weren’t allowed to challenge currently popular beliefs or ideologies for fear of offending. Deliberately plotting to have my department lose students, or to have me dismissed, through covert means, is surprising behaviour from a fellow academic.” Both professors praised the support that they had received from their universities.

Last month Brown University, the Ivy League institution in Rhode Island, was accused of cowardice by leading academics in the US after it caved into pressure on social media to pull a piece of research from its website that had concluded that social contagion could be a reason why clusters of young people were identifying as trans.

Professor Stock said: “It is head-scratchingly bizarre how so many public organisations, many of them ostensibly progressive, have capitulated to passive-aggressive, emotionally blackmailing, and sometimes even outright threatening behaviour from trans activists, often online.”

One member of the Facebook group, Sahra Rae Taylor, stood by her contribution to the list. She said: “That way we can advise people applying that ‘if you want to study law, then don’t go to these places’. Which would allow them at least to avoid being taught (and marked, and under the influence in some way) by a transphobic douchebag.”

Ms Kennedy, who describes herself on Facebook as a “stroppy, bolshie transgirl with attitude who hates the Tories with a passion”, refused to comment. She represented Goldsmiths during trans awareness week in February.

It confirmed that she was an employee but would not explain which department she worked in or why she appeared to be listed twice in the staff directory: once as Mark Hellen, in the department of educational studies, and secondly as Natacha Kennedy, who is named in equality and diversity reports. Both profiles appear to be active.

It also remained unclear why an academic paper on Ms Kennedy’s specialist subject of transgenderism in children, published by the Graduate Journal of Social Sciences in 2010, cited two co-authors: Natacha Kennedy and Mark Hellen.

Neither Ms Kennedy nor Goldsmiths would clarify whether the paper was by two individuals or the same person. A spokesman said: “Goldsmiths prides itself on its inclusive community and is committed to the values of freedom of speech within the law.”