University forced to apologise to PhD student reprimanded over ‘transphobic’ tweets

A shot of Queensgate Campus, including the Harold Wilson building (L) and the Creative Arts Building (R)

University of Huddersfield must apologise to and compensate a PHD student reprimanded over anti-trans tweets and blog posts.

Huddersfield university authorities launched a six-month-long investigation into music tutor and PhD student Jonathan Best, 50, after a student accused him of transphobia.

The claims were accompanied by a raft of 13 screenshots from Best’s Twitter account, as well as his writings on trans lives on platforms such as Medium.

In one tweet seen by The Telegraph, Best said: “Every trans woman is part of the same sex class as me. We’re all male.”

Another tweet read: “There is no such thing as ‘misgendering’ [or] ‘deadnaming’.” He then claimed in another that schools were pushing “misogynistic trans ideology”.

The concerned student decried Best’s “repeated transphobic behaviour” in a complaint to university officials.

“Could a trans woman student be expected to feel comfortable or respected being taught by him?” the student questioned

A disciplinary probe was launched into Best’s writings in August 2019, with the University of Huddersfield ruling that Best broke social media and LGBT+ equality policies.

However, the university must now pay Best £800 compensation after student complaints ombudsman, the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education, ruled against it.

The office wrote in February 2021: “We are not satisfied that the university has adequately apologised for the delay and the impact of the procedural failings on Mr Best.

“We consider that distress and inconvenience was caused to Mr Best, which has not been recognised by the university.”

While the initial complaint against Best was dropped in September 2019, four new charges were quickly levelled by officials against him.

The crux of the charges was a social media post in which Best republished the original complaint and defended his words as freedom of speech.

University officials said Best had been “offensive”, issuing him a formal warning for “sexual, homophobic, racial or other unlawful harassment of any student”.

Best appealed the charges, which were then sent to the ombudsman for review.

Best claimed the incident illustrated the “chilling effect on free speech in action” as he spoke to The Telegraph about such “low-grade totalitarianism”.

The ruling comes amid the government’s controversial plans to strengthen free speech on university campuses – a move that critics say will give the green light to homophobes, transphobes and racists under the guise of free speech.

Indeed, the government has cited research that included a student being punished for proclaiming that gay people are an “abomination” as justification to allow no-platformed speakers to sue universities.

Critics note that the government’s own report on the topic stated it “did not find the wholesale censorship of debate which media coverage has suggested”.

A spokesperson for Huddersfield University told the newspaper it was “committed to equality, diversity and inclusion and will rigorously investigate claims of discrimination against any of our students.

“Whilst the university cannot comment on individual cases, we will of course follow any instructions issued by the OIA.”