‘Trans students are not safe on campus’: LGBT soc slams Leeds Uni for policy change

Leeds Uni says, ‘Nothing is finalised and we are happy to explore alternative forms of wording’

The LGBT society at the University of Leeds has issued a statement in which it claims “trans students are not safe on campus,” following changes made to the uni’s  Trans Equality Policy.

Leeds Uni said: “Nothing is finalised and we are happy to explore alternative forms of wording.”

The policy, which once listed a wide range of examples of abusive behaviour towards trans members of the community, now only talks of  “abuse, harassment or bullying.”

This means that the uni can determine what counts as transphobic abuse, potentially resulting in instances of transphobia being ignored on the grounds of free speech or ignorance.

The policy also no longer states that reports of transphobic abuse “will be dealt with under the university’s dignity and mutual respect procedures.”

The promise that “the university undertakes to remove any inappropriate content whenever it appears on the premises,” has also been omitted from the policy.

A recent Instagram post from the university’s LGBT society further details how the changes  to the policy could negatively affect the trans community.

In an official statement given to the Leeds Tab by the LGBT society, Trans Welfare Officer Chris Minas said the change to the policy “has solidified the fear that trans students are not safe on campus and rubs salt in the wound of many vulnerable students just trying to survive.

“This is not an issue of ‘free speech’ or the ‘transgender lobby’; this is an issue of people trying to access their basic rights under the law.

“We are appalled at the university’s dialling-back of their approach to trans equality, and this reflects embarrassingly on the Equality Policy Unit, Vice Chancellor and university as a whole.

“We have difficulty placing trust in an institution that actively ignores our feedback in favour of vague, feeble promises about ‘supporting’ trans students; the university can throw keywords at us all they like, but we need to see concrete and progressive action. 

“We thank everyone who has shared and supported the petition, and hope to see our demands come to fruition.

A spokesperson for The University of Leeds said: “Equality of opportunity, fairness and inclusion remain at the foundation of our university community and we are fully committed to continuing to support our trans community.

“Our Trans Equality Policy and Guidance are currently under review and we are consulting and listening to a wide range of stakeholders within the university, including trades unions, the LGBT+ Staff Network and LUU. Nothing is finalised and we are happy to explore alternative forms of wording.

“We recognise that our IT systems are not fit for purpose in 2021 and a case for very significant investment is this week going to our senior leadership board to address this – one consequence of this investment is that technical problems with supporting name changes, which are causing concern for our trans community, should be addressed.

“This is complex and will take a considerable amount of time, but in the meantime we are working with individuals to find workarounds.

“We would welcome meeting representatives of the key parties affected to hear their concerns first-hand and to explain the technical issues we are encountering.”

Nearly 4,000 people have now signed a petition to prevent Leeds Uni from “rolling back” on the “equality and inclusion” of both transgender staff and students.

The petition emphasises how changes made to the once “fit-for-purpose” Trans Equality statement has led to a new policy that now “puts transgender staff and students at risk of harm.” You can sign the petition here.

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