• Thu. Jul 25th, 2024

BREAKING: University bans Trans and Non-Binary Liberation Officer from protesting on campus

ByLucy Jackson

Feb 27, 2023
The roof of McEwan Hall on Bristo Square, zoomed in on the spire. The image is in Black and White.

The Student has learned that the University of Edinburgh has banned Robyn Woof, Trans and Non-Binary Liberation Officer at Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) from attending or being within 200 feet of any protest on any subject on the university’s campus.

The ban is a precautionary action put in place by the Deputy Secretary and a Vice Principal whilst Woof is undergoing a criminal investigation for an alleged assault which took place during an attempted screening of the film ‘Adult Human Female’ on the university’s campus on December 14.

The screening was shut down by protestors over claims that the film was transphobic. Edinburgh Academics for Academic Freedom (AFAF) – the event’s organiser – argued in a recent statement that “[w]e think the points of conflict between rights on the basis of sex and rights on the basis of gender identity need to be carefully and respectfully discussed”.

‘Adult Human Female’ describes itself as a consideration of “the clash between women’s rights and trans ideology”, making assertions such as that only those who are born with a female reproductive system are women, that being transgender is an “invented oppression”, and that transgender people want to “take rights away from other women”.

Speaking to The Student about the charge against her, Woof said:

“During the attempted screening, I committed no crime. The police offered to deal with the matter with a recorded police warning – not an admission of guilt –  but refused to interview me about the events of that evening, despite me repeatedly volunteering to be interviewed. Since I wasn’t willing to take a warning for a false allegation, I refused; the police therefore charged me.  

“I was never arrested, am not on bail, the police have imposed no bail conditions on me, and have expressed no concerns about me carrying on exercising my rights, including the right to protest. When the university contacted me to say the Student Conduct Team was making a decision on preliminary action, I again volunteered to give my account of the events of that night; however, I was told to wait for a decision, and then given a ban on attending any protest or demonstration on University property, regardless of the topic.”

Woof has also been banned by the Student Conduct team from attending or being within 200 feet of any event approved by the university which includes the screening of the film ‘Adult Human Female’.

This comes as Edinburgh AFAF prepares to announce a new date for its screening.

The university is preventing me from carrying out the duties I was elected to do.

A statement on February 20 from Edinburgh AFAF said that discussions were still ongoing with the university, which had “imposed several conditions” on the group which included limiting the audience capacity to 100 people who were exclusively University of Edinburgh staff and students. The university also requested the film be shown in a specific lecture theatre, which the group claim has a lack of availability, and which they are attempting to book for late March or April.

Edinburgh AFAF also said in their statement:

“We do not think that gender-identity theory should be regarded as unassailable on our campus, and we deplore the actions of those who try to stop discussions with which they disagree, whether by smears, slurs and monstering, or, as we saw in December, by physically preventing people from gathering.”

Woof told The Student that the ban put in place by the university was “a gross overreaction”. She said:

“By taking this action, the university is preventing me from carrying out the duties I was elected to do.

“I did not attend the attempted screening of Adult Human Female as a protestor; I went with a ticket, with the intention of articulating my disagreement with the views expressed in the film, as we were advised to do by the university.

“Since the event, I have attended a number of demonstrations on campus, including one regarding the sexual assault redressal system at the university, and I helped organise, attended, and spoke at a vigil for Brianna Ghey, without any issue.”

Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Mathieson, in a statement to UCU Edinburgh, advised those who were concerned about the screening to “consider joining the event on the day and to engage in these frank but respectful discussions.”

The action taken against Woof is in place indefinitely and was taken in consultation with a Vice-Principal. The Student Conduct team will review the case every 20 working days.

When asked why the university has responded in such a way, Woof told The Student:

“I think the university is unwilling to stand up to key figures in the university and beyond who are openly and loudly transphobic. I think the university does not respect the right to peaceful protest and is behaving unethically on this matter.

“The university is structurally transphobic and this ban shows they have no honest claim to be acting in the interests of ‘academic freedom’.

“These events are aimed not at academic debate but radicalisation. The film has always been available for free online, but the intention of many of those present was to encourage each other’s fringe transphobic beliefs, recruit new individuals to their cause – using the legitimacy granted by hosting an event at the university, and to occupy a campus where they knew they would be challenged, enabling them to portray themselves as the victims, when in reality they are the aggressors. 

“The university is trying to portray both sides – those organising the screening, and those who challenged it – as equals, when in fact one side is an extreme fringe group which openly calls for the removal of existing rights, and the other is merely a group of people trying to exist, and exercise rights which they hold in countries all round the world and which they have held here in Scotland for decades. This is not the university being neutral; this is enabling radicalisation against a vulnerable community of students and staff.”

The Student has also learned that at least one other student at the university is facing an investigation from the Student Conduct team surrounding their actions at the attempted screening of ‘Adult Human Female’.

This sets a deeply worrying precedent of intimidating students who protest against injustice in all forms at the university

Responding to claims that the university is potentially silencing the voices of trans students, a university spokesperson told The Student:

“We are committed to fostering an inclusive, supportive and safe environment for our whole community, and this includes providing support for our trans students. We continue to invest significantly in raising awareness, delivering training for students and staff and ensuring there is effective professional support available for anyone affected by abuse or harassment.

“The university is clear in its commitment to upholding freedom of expression and academic freedom, and facilitating an environment where students and staff can discuss challenging topics.

“Given the size of our community, it is inevitable that the ideas of different members will conflict. We always encourage respectful debate whenever there are differences of view and seek to ensure that everyone is aware of, and complies with, our Student Code of Conduct and Dignity and Respect Policy.

“The university has been working with organisers to reschedule this event. As with all events hosted at the university, we will put measures in place to ensure the safety and welfare of all those attending.”

Speaking to The Student, Woof said that “the university clearly does not care about free speech on campus; something they made clear on the night of the previous attempted screening when they tried to move the venue, without telling attendees who weren’t affiliated with the event’s organisers.”

Woof also encouraged other individuals to protest, saying:

“Although this is an attack on free speech, it does not affect the right to protest of other students who are not subject to a similar order so I urge any students, staff or others who disagree with the screening of propaganda on campus to protest in a safe, non-violent way.”

The Student also spoke to Hope Conway-Gebbie, Women’s Liberation Officer at EUSA. She said:

“Student conduct investigations being launched against numerous students who exercised their right to assembly, and banning one of our Liberation Officers from attending demonstrations on campus – a key component of our roles – sets a deeply worrying precedent of intimidating students who protest against injustice in all forms at the university.”

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The Student would like to speak to anyone who has experienced similar action from the university, or who has been impacted by the screening of ‘Adult Human Female’ on campus. We encourage you to reach out to us at editors.studentnewspaper@gmail.com, or via Instagram @studentnewspaper. All conversations will be kept confidential.

Image “Bristo Square, winter day 05” by byronv2 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

By Lucy Jackson

President of The Student.