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Some UCL staff who voted to not rejoin Stonewall may have done so on ‘transphobic grounds’

Students have branded comments made in meeting as ‘blasé’ and ‘disgusting’

A member of UCL’s senior management team said that some of the board who voted to not rejoin Stonewall may have done so “on transphobic grounds.”

In an audio recording obtained by The London Tab, the UCL Pro Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion, Sasha Roseneil said: “Who knows why every individual voted? Maybe there were people voting on transphobic grounds.”

Members who were present at the meeting told The London Tab they felt that the comments were “blasé” and “disgusting”.

Back in December 2021, UCL’s senior committees voted to not rejoin Stonewall, in particular the Diversity Champions Programme and the participation in the Workplace Equality Index.

UCL publicly claimed it chose to move away from the prominent LGBTQ+ rights group because a “formal institutional commitment to Stonewall may have the effect of inhibiting academic work and discussion within UCL about sex and gender identity.”

The vote not to rejoin faced widespread backlash from students, staff and members of the public this January. A petition for UCL to rejoin Stonewall has now received over 6,000 signatures.

The vote was carried out by the UCL Academic Board, and was opposed by the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) committee, [email protected], UCL LGBTQ+ Equality Steering Group (LESG), UCL UCU, and Students’ Union UCL.

A meeting took place on the 21st January with members of the UCL community to voice their concerns with the vote.

The members of the board holding the meeting were confirmed to be the Pro Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion, Sasha Roseneil and the Pro Vice Provost for Student Experience, Deborah Gill.

In the meeting, Roseneil said: “Sex and gender are fundamental categories of analysis and we have to talk about them- thats not transphobic, that would be like saying it would be racist to talk about race.

“What was expressed at the academic board was complex. It was about the important issue of sex-based rights. It wasn’t a question of questioning trans people’s existence.

“The opposition to Stonewall was about the interventions Stonewall has made around sex… The implications of that for people being able to do their research. It was about the collective data on sex.”

Roseneil added: “Who knows why every individual voted? Maybe there were people voting on transphobic grounds.”

UCL student Jenna Ali was present at the meeting and thought Roseneil’s comment “was a cop out way of admitting that the vote was made on transphobic grounds. To say ‘maybe’ was a tactic to shift away the blame.”

Another student, who was present at the meeting and requested to remain anonymous, said: “The idea that members of the board may have been voting under transphobic grounds is something we should be concerned about. To hear the vice provost apparently being so blasé and dismissive of it, someone who is meant to protect us is disgusting.

“I think the UCL leadership team have proven themselves not to be trustworthy. I didn’t have high hopes but I think Roseneil has failed in her duty.”

Another student present at the meeting, added: “The betrayal was the worst. It felt hopeless and there are people at the top who have this mindset and these views and vote on transphobic grounds. It was a ridiculous statement.”

Another added: “If someone who is transphobic wants to do research to disprove trans identities, thats transphobic. We don’t want to stop research. [Roseneil’s comments] showed a lack of understanding of what we were trying to say.”

Professor Sasha Roseneil said: “My comments have been taken out of context. In this discussion with students about UCL’s decision not to re-join Stonewall, I suggested that it wasn’t possible to know any individual’s personal motivation for voting against UCL working with Stonewall, acknowledging that it was possible that for some there might be transphobic motivation.

“But I went on to say that it was concerns about academic freedom, and the ability to explore issues of sex and gender in academic work, and specifically to use the category of sex in data collection and research, that were at the centre of Academic Board’s discussions and that were the grounds for UMC’s decision.

“I also said that I did not believe that any one’s gender identity was being questioned or debated; no trans person’s existence was being challenged. I personally am deeply committed to LGBTQ+ equality and inclusion, and particularly to ensuring that UCL is a place where trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming members of our community feel a full sense of membership and belonging.”

A UCL spokesperson said: “This is unbalanced. It was a private meeting that was covertly recorded without the consent of all present, including some of the student participants, and the comments quoted have been taken completely out of context.

“Professor Roseneil has taken a very balanced and nuanced position throughout the debates at both the EDI Committee and Academic Board, and subsequent meetings with members across the UCL community – consistently presenting views on different sides of the debate. As such, she has an extremely thorough understanding of the complexities of this issue.

“Throughout her time at UCL, Professor Roseneil has been intensely engaged with UCL’s LGBTQ+ community. She is deeply committed to working for equality and inclusion for all LGBTQ+ members of UCL, particularly trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming students and staff. Professor Roseneil has worked hard to ensure that UCL is a diverse community to which everyone can bring their whole self without fear of discrimination, bullying or harassment.”

A Stonewall Spokesperson said: “Our work with organisations in no way impacts their ability to uphold free speech, it simply creates welcoming working environments for LGBTQ+ people – which in 2021, should not be a controversial act.”

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