A Cambridge University lecturer who has come under fire for calling a gender-sensitive lecturer ‘hateful’ has written to alumni after furious donors said they were considering withdrawing their funding.
Professor Pippa Rogerson, Principal of Gonville and Caius College, wrote to graduates last week saying freedom of speech was “fundamental”.
It comes after Helen Joyce, an author and former economics journalist, was invited to the college by Professor Arif Ahmed, a scholar, for a debate on gender ideology.
But Prof Rogerson joined Dr Andrew Spencer, the college’s senior tutor, in vowing to boycott the conference. They emailed all students saying Ms Joyce’s views were ‘offensive, insulting and hateful to members of our community who live and work here’.
Ms Joyce believes biological sex is binary and immutable, but is being replaced by the self-identified genders espoused by trans activists.
The intervention of college heads – before Ms Joyce spoke – led to donors telling the Telegraph they were ’embarrassed, appalled and absolutely disgusted’ and would not donate again without a retraction and an apology.
Nick Sallnow-Smith, 72, a graduate of Gonville and Caius in 1973 and now convening its Hong Kong chapter, said “with people like this in charge I will never donate again”.
But in his letter, Prof Rogerson refused to apologise, instead telling the alumni ‘we have expressed our personal views – as is our right’.
Acknowledging that there were “difficult and complex discussions” on trans issues, she insisted: “I have read a lot in this area, including Helen Joyce’s book and related media, and listened to podcasts.
“After thinking about the matter for a long time, I disagree with her opinions, the way she presents them and the way she responds to those who disagree with her.”
She said a cancellation of the event was not being considered and that “freedom of expression is fundamental”, but added categorically: “I hope it is possible for reasonable people to disagree and that freedom of expression is accessible to everyone, including me.”
Some Cambridge alumni viewed the response as defiant and it is understood others have since written to complain. Others threaten to withdraw bequests or urge their own children not to attend university.
William Mackesy, of Alumni For Free Speech, a new cross-campus network, said: “His email avoided free speech issues other than claiming his own free speech rights… They are in a rather uncomfortable bunker. They should stop digging.
About 100 protesters, some in masks, gathered outside the conference last month chanting “trans rights are human rights” and banging drums. Witnesses said a fire door had been hit and the microphones had to be set to full volume as Ms Joyce was inaudible.
Professor Ahmed claimed he had to smuggle students into the lecture hall because they were “afraid of being ostracized by their student peers”.
He said fear of speaking freely ‘stalks the halls of academia’, with another row brewing over an invitation from Professor Kathleen Stock – a bullied philosophy expert at the University of Sussex last year – at Cambridge Union later this month.