THE University of Edinburgh has been accused of having a “cavalier attitude” towards concerns of transphobia ahead of an upcoming film screening set to be held on campus.
A screening of the film Adult Human Female is scheduled to occur in a lecture hall on the university’s George Square campus on Wednesday, hosted by the University of Edinburgh Academics for Academic Freedom group.
However the Edinburgh branch of the University and College Union (UCU) wrote to the university’s principal, Peter Mathieson, and called for the screening to be cancelled over concerns it contained content that was “a clear attack on trans people's identities.”
A spokesperson for the University of Edinburgh told The National that despite concerns expressed by the union, and by the university’s LGBT+ Pride society, the screening would go ahead.
They said: “As part of our commitment to freedom of expression and academic freedom it is our duty to make sure staff and students feel able to discuss controversial topics and that each event allows for debate.
“Given the size of our community, it is inevitable that ideas of different members will conflict.
"We always encourage respectful debate and discussion whenever there are differences of view or opinion and ensure that attendees of all events are aware of, and comply with, the university's dignity and respect policy, so that those wanting to attend feel able to contribute.”
But the UCU has now stated their complaint, along with others, was dismissed by the principal in a “cavalier manner”.
A statement read: “We pointed out the film description (then on Eventbrite but now taken down) contained content that was a clear attack on trans people's identities and not in line with dignity and respect policy. It is specifically not, ‘expression within a framework of mutual respect’.
“The principal’s response, [which] declined our request, was generalised and did not engage with the specific points raised.
“He also suggested we engage with the film by attending the screening.
“This demonstrates a complete lack of understanding and sends a message to staff and students of a huge gulf between the university’s trans equality policy, with its commitment to provide 'support and understanding to those individuals who wish to take, or have taken, steps to present themselves in a gender different to their birth gender', and what is being followed in practice.
I was sent a link to the film. It’s easy to find. I won’t be sharing it. The truth is that transphobia and hate won’t win. https://t.co/EoclflfeYi— Monica Lennon MSP (@MonicaLennon7) December 11, 2022
“We are also aware that ours is also not the only complaint that has been dismissed in such a cavalier manner.”
Responding to an invite to the screening on Twitter, Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon said: “I have watched it. I will continue to fight for women and girls without throwing trans people under the bus.”
The UCU has now encouraged people to attend two alternative events being held in opposition to the screening.
They said: “With the university not conceding to ours and others’ demands that this screening not take place on our campus, we encourage members and others to support the two alternative events which have been organised by the Staff Pride Network, the Students’ Association and Pride Soc and which take place at the same time as the screening.”
One event is a “Pride stall” organised by the university’s Pride society which will take place outside of the lecture hall “to show solidarity to the trans community”.
The other event, organised by the Edinburgh University Students Association, is a trans solidarity community event which will take place in the Teviot building while the screening takes place.
The University of Edinburgh has been contacted for comment.