Protesting students storm Q&A with LSE Senior Managers

Published On: March 7th, 2023

The second Rejoin Stonewall protest was scheduled on the day of the 2023 Student Q&A – an annual event for LSE students to ask questions of the LSE School Management Committee (SMC).

The SMC had originally decided to leave Stonewall without properly consulting the LGBTQ+ Steering Group, the LGBTQ+ staff networks, the trade unions, or the Student Union. And, despite the fact that almost three months had passed since the decision was announced publicly, the SMC still had not given clear reasons for their decision. They appeared to have been conned by the rhetoric of powerful gender critical professors.

Now was the time for students to ask the SMC for clarity.

The event began with the second-ever protest in CBG Plaza on LSE Campus—the first was the original Rejoin Stonewall protest—where speeches were given, poems were read, and both students and staff should their support for the LGBTQ+ community in spite of the behaviour of Senior Management.

This post was written and submitted to us by a student who attended the Q&A on 7 March 2023 with LSE Senior Managers.

After the protest, a group of 30+ students marched up to the Shaw Library to attend the Q&A session. We sat together in the back of the room, some of us still carrying our flags from the protest.

The event began with a preamble from Minouche Shafik, then-president of LSE, who had been pressured by anti-trans activists outside the LSE to leave Stonewall. She brought up the decision to leave Stonewall as one of her first points, talking about the “polarisation” and “divisions” in the community and the importance of LSE as an institution remaining “politically neutral”—repeating well-known misinformation.

Once the floor was opened for questions, we all raised our hands. Questions were posed three at a time, and the first three questions were all about the decision to leave Stonewall.

Questions included:

  • “Why was there no announcement made about the decision?”
  • “Is there any evidence that there is a problem with academic freedom on campus, and why would leaving Stonewall make a difference to this?” (A memo by an LSE lecturer showed that Stonewall is no problem for academic freedom.)
  • “Do you understand that there is a difference between debating views and debating existence, and that we should never be debating existence?”
  • “All research done by LSE is inherently political, so how do you expect LSE not to take any political stances? And since so much of the stance taken by those advocating against Stonewall is based on misinformation, why is it being taken seriously?”

Many of the questions were accompanied by powerful personal perspectives of trans and non-binary students who were outraged at the SMC’s decision to leave Stonewall. Other students present at the event told us after the event that these perspectives are what made them realise the gravity of the issue.

After the first couple of rounds of questions, the SMC attempted to move on from the topic by ignoring any raised hands from obvious members of the Stonewall campaign group and moving to other parts of the room. But, other students who hadn’t come from the protest spoke up in favour of Stonewall as well. They couldn’t avoid it.

Stonewall was discussed for at least 45 minutes before the SMC were able to move on to other topics. The majority of answers they gave at this event were frustratingly vague, although as the discussion progressed they were increasingly forced to acknowledge the dissent and dissatisfaction of the student body.

Towards the end of the Q&A, the microphone was given to a student who expressed hateful and harmful views about transgender students and spoke in favour of the decision to leave Stonewall.

SMC member Eric Neumayer, now president of the LSE, had to step in and tell him to stop saying things that were at a minimum incredibly disrespectful and at most illegal.

This was shocking to witness, and in some ways highlighted more clearly than anything else why queer students were so at risk from their decision on Stonewall.

After the Q&A there was a drinks reception, and many members of the group were able to speak with the panellists one-on-one and more informally. In these conversations, we heard admissions that the decision was mishandled, and the most sincere expressions of concerns we had received so far.

Witnessing such clear transphobia by an LSE student and hearing the pain they had caused first-hand did seem to have changed their tone. It was also only the beginning of a long series of staff and student meetings with members of the School Management Committee to discuss what the LSE student body widely viewed as a disastrous mistake to leave Stonewall.