A prestigious college at the University of Oxford announced Thursday that violating its new transgender harassment policy, including using the wrong pronouns, could lead to expulsion.
Regent’s Park College released a Trans Inclusion Statement, which outlines in detail what the college considers “transphobic harassment” and threatens offenders with severe penalties, including expulsion.
The statement declares, “Any unlawful discriminatory behaviour, including transphobic harassment or bullying of by individuals or groups, will be regarded extremely seriously and could be grounds for disciplinary action, which may include expulsion or dismissal.”
The college’s statement goes on to define “transphobia” broadly, including acts like “denying or disputing the validity and/or existence of a trans person’s identity,” “refusal to treat a person in accordance with their affirmed identity,” and “misgendering” by using “the wrong name or pronoun.”
The college further admits that “it is not possible to have a comprehensive definition of transphobia.” The college interprets the United Kingdom’s Equality Act of 2010 to forbid discrimination based on gender identity, even though the law uses the medical term “gender reassignment” rather than “gender identity” in its anti-discrimination language.
The Trans Inclusion Statement came out in the wake of a controversial talk the college hosted given by “gender-critical feminist” Kathleen Stock, a former professor at the University of Sussex. Stock’s talk was heavily protested and even interrupted by a trans activist who glued her hands to the floor of the stage.
Stock promoted her book “Material Girls,” stating that she wants “trans people protected from violence and discrimination,” but that it was “not fair on females” to share spaces like bathrooms and changing rooms with biological men. She called for “third spaces” as a compromise.
At the end of its statement, the college briefly mentions how the Equality Act protects religious belief and states that it respects the right of “those holding gender-critical beliefs” with the qualification that their speech “does not constitute harassment as not respecting the rights and freedoms of others.”
Despite the college’s ode to free speech and religious liberty, the language banning “denying or disputing the validity and/or existence of a trans person’s identity” was similar to the charges protesters threw at Stock a few days earlier.
One sign read, “Our existence is not a debate,” and protest leader Amaid Haran Diman said, “[Stock] wants to be the polite voice of a trans-exclusionary movement, but I don’t believe in her good faith. I don’t think she wants to have a civil conversation. If you look at her behaviour online it is very hostile. I think it is hateful and intolerant.”
The new policy at the University of Oxford college comes in the midst of legal challenges to colleges’ bias and harassment policies in the United States, highlighting the conflict between such policies and free speech principles.