Newly appointed University of Leeds VC liked anti-trans tweets
The blog she endorsed says that ‘female biology and socialization matter’
Simone Buitendijk, the professor taking over as Vice Chancellor of Leeds University in September, has been embroiled in a scandal where she liked a tweet promoting a blog with anti-trans sentiments.
Simone, who was previously provost for Imperial College London, deleted her twitter account and apologised after coming under fire for liking and sharing content which was deemed anti-trans.
One tweet that she liked contains a link to the blog "The New Backlash", a blog with content that includes: "I am afraid to publicly state my opinion that female biology and socialization matter – because that opinion is inevitably framed as transphobic."
The blog also states: "Transgender identity politics are about men weaponizing the suffering of transsexual people in order to destroy women's boundaries and undermine basic feminist analysis."
The blog criticises transgender identity politics, and some of the views expressed on the site seek to exclude trans people from certain dialogues.
Liking this tweet raised a few concerns among students and fellow staff, which only deepened when Prof Buitendijk shared a Spectator article to her twitter audience titled: "Trans rights have gone wrong."
Josef Willsher, a third year Physics student at Imperial College, discovered Buitendijk’s social media activity by accident when Twitter suggested he should follow certain accounts that Buitendijk followed.
He approached the university’s Physics LGBT+ Allies Network, asking for advice on how to proceed. A few days after the group began drafting a letter.
Joanna Wormald, deputy editor of the Felix newspaper, collected more than 50 screenshots, spanning at least six months, attesting to the vice-provost’s social media activity.
The open letter was signed by 86 members of the university’s staff and student body, raising concerns about her “engagement with transphobic material and social media accounts.”
Simone Buitendijk apologised at the time and deleted her twitter account. She said in a statement: “Although I support the freedom of academics to follow and engage in debate in all areas, including on social media, on this occasion I now realise that social media is not the correct forum for such sensitive debates."
"I have elected to stop all engagement with these accounts and apologise for hurt or anxiety caused to members of our community. I fully support all trans staff and students and I hope that the open and honest discussion we have had can lead to improved collaboration to ensure a sense of safety and belonging for all trans students at Imperial.”
Joanna Wormald, who signed Willsher’s letter, is not fully convinced by the statement.
She said: “I have doubts about whether she (Buitendijk) truly appreciates why her actions were harmful, especially as her statement seemed to frame this as a free speech issue. The bitter irony is that many of these tweets were in the middle of tweets promoting LGBT+ equality or supporting women in STEM. There’s enough transphobia from Imperial students as it is. The last thing we need is for senior staff to echo these views.”