Student newspaper reports concerns about LUCAF ‘academic freedom’ council

Published On: December 12th, 2023

The following is a repost of the original article in LSE student newspaper The Beaver (archived version here).

Teach-out staged in response to recent LSE guest speaker

Iraz Akkus and Hannah Gillott

On Monday 20 November, LSE students and staff joined together to show their support for the queer and transgender community in response to the London Universities’ Council for Academic Freedom (LUCAF) guest speaker, Akua Reindorf,who led an inquiry into the expression of “gender critical” views on university campuses.

The launch event for the newly-formed network, which consists of academics from several London universities, took place on LSE’s campus, and was hosted by members of the LSE Academic Freedom Network, LSE’s branch of the council. LSE’s Rejoin Stonewall campaign described the council as “bring[ing] together trans-critical staff” from universities across London.

The event coincided with the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which is an internationally observed day to memorialise those that have lost their lives due to being transgender. In support of this, the teach-out started with a vigil, consisting of lighting candles and a minute of silence, outside the Marshall Building where the event was being hosted.

A few speakers including the LSESU LGBTQ Officer, Hannah Gillott, and Alex*, spoke on the importance of showing solidarity of the LGBTQ community on this day.

During the peaceful gathering, a representative from the launch event approached the participants and passed around flyers with information about the event and the Council. When met with no reaction, she said that attendees “don’t even want to have an academic debate”.

A student who attended dubbed this move as “provocative, desperate and disrespectful”.

The teach-out continued on the ground floor of the Marshall Building, where attendees shared their thoughts about LSE hosting the launch event. The term ‘academic freedom’ was heavily contested, with attendees stating that it was “anti-trans propaganda under the guise of ‘academic freedom’”.

Dr Nico Rosetti, UCU branch chair, was invited to speak at the teach-out in a union capacity. He made the following comment to The Beaver: “There is an extraordinary hypocrisy inherent in hiding a discriminatory agenda behind the banner of Academic Freedom. We absolutely must defend the freedom of inquiry necessary to allow academic pursuits without fear of oppression. However this does not grant academics freedom from being challenged by students and colleagues when disseminating propaganda through higher education platforms..”

An LSE representative commented: “Free speech and freedom of expression underpin everything we do at LSE. Our School is a place where we come together to discuss, effect change and challenge through education practices, academic research and rigorous debate. LSE has clear policies in place to ensure the facilitation of debates and enable all members of our community to refute ideas lawfully, and to protect individual’s rights to freedom of expression within the law. This is formalised in our Code of Practice on Free Speech and in our Ethics Code.

“Alongside this, LSE is committed to ensuring we have an inclusive culture that both welcomes and supports trans staff and students and promotes an environment that is free from discrimination.  This is outlined in our Policy on Trans Staff and Students and underpinned by our LSE Anti-Bullying and Anti-Harassment Policy.”

Photograph by Iraz Akkus.