New Ed­in­burgh rec­tor in ‘trans­pho­bic’ Twit­ter row

The Herald - - NEWS - STEPHEN NAY­SMITH

THE new Rec­tor of Ed­in­burgh Univer­sity has been ac­cused of trans­pho­bia, af­ter tweet­ing about a meet­ing to dis­cuss changes to the Gen­der Recog­ni­tion Act (GRA).

The univer­sity news­pa­per Stu­dent and Ed­in­burgh Univer­sity Stu­dents As­so­ci­a­tion con­demned the mes­sage, claim­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tions be­hind the event were hate groups.

Ed­in­burgh Univer­sity said Ann Henderson, who of­fi­cially be­came rec­tor on Oc­to­ber 6, was act­ing in a per­sonal ca­pac­ity, and it had “zero tol­er­ance towards trans­pho­bia”.

But these com­ments have led to a back­lash, dis­put­ing that Ms Henderson’s ac­tions were trans­pho­bic and warn­ing of “Mc­carthy­ism”.

Ms Henderson, a long-stand­ing fem­i­nist cam­paigner retweeted the date and time of a drop-in meet­ing in West­min­ster this Tues­day ti­tled “How will changes to the GRA af­fect women’s rights?” It urged women to contact their MP ask­ing them to at­tend. The meet­ing is pro­moted by the or­gan­i­sa­tion A Woman’s Place UK, and sup­ported by the groups Fair Play For Women and Trans­gen­der Trend, but Ed­in­burgh Stu­dent ac­cused all three of trans­pho­bia.

The Sab­bat­i­cal Team at Ed­in­burgh Univer­sity Stu­dents As­so­ci­a­tion (EUSA) said trans­pho­bic fly­ers had been dis­trib­uted on cam­pus and added: “Af­ter raising the is­sue of these ma­te­ri­als and or­gan­i­sa­tions with the Rec­tor in a re­cent meet­ing, we are shocked the Rec­tor con­tin­ues to sup­port these or­gan­i­sa­tions on Twit­ter. As a rep­re­sen­ta­tive for staff and stu­dents, the Rec­tor’s ac­tions are un­ac­cept­able.”

A spokesper­son for the Univer­sity of Ed­in­burgh ini­tially said the Rec­tor had posted the links in a per­sonal ca­pac­ity and said it did not tol­er­ate trans­pho­bia. How­ever pressed on what part of Ms Henderson’s tweet was viewed as trans­pho­bic, in a new state­ment the Univer­sity said: “We have re­ceived in­for­mal com­plaints about Ann Henderson’s re­cent ac­tiv­ity on twit­ter; we have also re­ceived ex­pres­sions of sup­port for her.

“We strongly be­lieve both in the free­dom of speech and a zero tol­er­ance pol­icy towards trans­pho­bia. We will con­tinue to give this cur­rent set of al­le­ga­tions care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion.”

Her­ald colum­nist and former Ed­in­burgh Rec­tor Iain Macwhirter said the univer­sity should have stood up for Ms Henderson: “It should de­fend free­dom of speech on cam­pus and dis­own this smear,” he said.

Ms Henderson was un­avail­able to com­ment.

„ Ann Henderson has been ac­cused of back­ing trans­pho­bia.

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