Essex university issues ‘sincere’ apology to trans staff and students after equalities row

Essex university apologises to trans staff and students

The vice-chancellor of Essex university has apologised to trans and non-binary staff and students for the “very negative impact” caused by publication of the Reindorf Report.

Professor Anthony Forster said he is “sincerely sorry” for the bullying and harassment trans and non-binary students may have faced as a result of the timing and way the report was published, and vowed to “repair relationships” with trans staff and students at the University of Essex.

“My personal view is that the current law in the UK does not fully respect and protect the identities of trans and non-binary people,” Forster said in a 2 July statement, which followed a meeting with trans students and staff at the University of Essex about the impact of the Reindorf Report.

The Reindorf Report was commissioned by the university to review its policy regarding speakers on campus after two women accused of transphobia were uninvited from speaking.

He continued: “I understand that […] we have given the impression that we might not care about the lived reality of trans and non-binary people.

“As we revise our equality, diversity and inclusion policies and procedures we will continue to go beyond the minimum standards required by law, wherever we can, to ensure that we recognise, respect and protect the identities of trans and non-binary people.”

Following the apology, the Essex university has committed to a 10-point action plan for repairing relationships with trans university members such as working with trans and non-binary students and staff on specific workstreams, regular meetings between trans students and senior management, and considering suggestions including the creation of a trans common room and allocating more money for mental-health services on campus.

Forster added that he wanted to apologise to “anyone who felt excluded from or affected by the process of contributing to the review; for the manner in which the Reindorf Report was released, and in particular for the timing of the release at the start of the examination period and for how this has felt during Pride Month”.

He also apologised for “the public scrutiny this has focused on some of our students; and for any harassment or bullying that has taken place and for anyone having been made to feel unsafe as a result of the review. I am sincerely sorry for this. We have a zero-tolerance approach to harassment and bullying and I am committed to taking action when needed to ensure that we treat everyone in our community with dignity and respect.”

Forster also reiterated the Essex university’s commitment to working with LGBT+ charity Stonewall, after what the charity called a “coordinated attack” on it by the media in the wake of the Reindorf Report.

The report, an independent review of the university’s decision to de-platform two “gender critical” speakers that was highly critical of Stonewall and its LGBT+ workplace inclusion scheme, the Diversity Champions programme.

The Reindorf Report said that Stonewall’s advice to employers on best practices for including trans and non-binary people on campus was an “incorrect summary of the law” – because the charity uses layman terms like “trans status” and “gender identity” rather than “gender reassignment”, which is the language in law.

Stonewall’s advice is based on the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) own guidance for service providers on implementing the Equality Act 2010, which has been backed as lawful by both an internal EHRC review and a High Court judge who on 6 May confirmed there is “no arguable reason to believe the Code has mislead or will mislead service providers about their responsibilities under the Act in order to place women or girls at risk”.