LSE Student Union and LGBTQ+ staff network condemn departure from Stonewall

Published On: January 17th, 2023

After being notified that the LSE School Management Committee (SMC) planned to disaffiliate from Stonewall, the LSE Student Union and the Spectrum Society (the LGBTQ+ staff network) released a joint statement condemning the departure. Spectrum called an emergency meeting with its members on 17 January to discuss the statement, although they were later chastised by the SMC for holding this meeting.

Their joint statement was posted soon after. It was signed by over 300 members of the LSE community. We reprint the statement below. A permanently archived version of the statement is here.

 

LSESU and Spectrum Statement on Stonewall

We are deeply disappointed to hear that LSE has decided to end its affiliation with Stonewall. As the largest LGBTQ+ rights organisation not just in the UK but also in Europe, Stonewall has played an important role in fighting for and securing rights for our community for over 30 years. The Stonewall Workplace Equality Index is the definitive benchmarking tool for employers to measure their progress on lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans inclusion, and is used by over 900+ organisations, including a large number of higher education institutions. External benchmarking and the independent framework of the Stonewall Diversity Champions scheme ensures that institutions such as LSE remain true to their stated commitments on LGBTQ+ rights and affords members of our community, so often discriminated against, some measure of protection.

LSE’s decision to withdraw from this established external scrutiny has the potential to create an environment where gender prejudice and transphobic language is justified under the guise of academic freedom – a growing and dangerous trend for academia in the UK. While academic freedom and freedom of speech are fundamental to a functioning democracy, society and university, we must be careful not to conflate freedom of speech with the right to use discriminative language. It’s unacceptable to use the cover of academic rigour to exclude or belittle LGBTQ+ people, or to promote transphobia.

We are concerned at LSE Senior Management’s lack of transparency in coming to this decision, without a wider consultation of the LSE community of students, staff, alumni and the unions – and particularly LGBTQ+ student and staff networks. There has been no opportunity for the vast majority of us who value our relationship to Stonewall to respond to some of the incorrect assumptions which appear to have contributed to the School’s decision. There is a concerted and coordinated external campaign to undermine Stonewall, and suggestions that they infringe on academic freedom or freedom of speech, or that they provide unlawful advice are incorrect. Whilst a number of gender critical groups have launched legal challenges against Stonewall, the legality of their advice has been upheld at a hearing in London’s High Court in May 2021, and other cases brought to court have been dismissed as ‘unarguable’. For these reasons we find it highly regrettable that LSE’s decision to leave Stonewall comes as attacks on transgender people are increasing within social and political spheres.

We call upon LSE Senior Management to:

  • Release a statement explaining the reasoning that led to this decision, to allow for wider consultation about our relationship with Stonewall, and to ultimately reverse the decision to disaffiliate.
  • To develop an LGBTQ+ action plan in conjunction with LGBTQ+ students and staff, including a specific funding commitment and timeline. This should include, but not be limited to:
      • An advisor to LGBTQ+ students and staff on campus, including a specific advisor with experience in supporting trans and nonbinary people.
      • The foundation of a gender expression fund to help students pay for items necessary to support their transition.
      • More inclusivity within LSE’s mental health services, including professionals with specialisations in queer mental health, and the option for students and staff to request an LGBTQ+ therapist.
      • An LGBTQ+ training and development programme, including mandatory training for all School managers and academic Heads of Department on LGBTQ+ (and specifically trans) issues.
      • A streamlined process to change one’s name and/or gender/sex in School IT systems, and on emails, ID cards, and other School documentation.
      • The creation of a designated queer space on campus.
      • Remove all webpage content relating to Stonewall and any logos from HR webpages and all divisions as continuing to display LSE as being part of Stonewall, with a suitable replacement showing LSE’s commitment to LGBTQ+ staff and students.
      • Better funding for the School EDI Office, including named Officers for each named protected characteristic.
      • Increased funding for staff and student networks.
      • Both the Students’ Union and Spectrum live by our values as organisations for all, and we will intensify our efforts to provide support, guidance, and protection to our LGBTQ+ community, and champion our rights to work and study without abuse, discrimination or harm.

Both the Students’ Union and Spectrum live by our values as organisations for all, and we will intensify our efforts to provide support, guidance, and protection to our LGBTQ+ community, and champion our rights to work and study without abuse, discrimination or harm.

If any member of our community wishes to reach out to us in light of the School’s decision, do get in touch with us. We are here for you.