Canadian university faculty union charges feminist academic with creating a discriminatory work environment for ‘questioning the validity [of] transgender identity’
Kathleen Lowrey is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. In March 2020 Lowrey was removed by the University from an associate chair position because of student complaints about her gender critical views. Her faculty union (the Association of Academic Staff at the University of Alberta) has since been pursuing a grievance on her behalf regarding this abrogation of her academic freedom.
However, that same faculty union has now, in June 2021, itself charged her with creating a discriminatory work environment at the University because of statements she made on an internal discussion forum for university faculty:
‘The complaint received by Executive identified two areas of discrimination. The first was the sentence “But that women should give up very hard won rights and spaces to accommodate the feelings of some men seems to me the very essence of misogyny.” The characterization of trans women as men was seen as a denial of their gender identity, and as such discriminatory.
The second was that multiple entries in the thread (especially, but not exclusively, those revolving around the quote from the DSM) characterized the gender identity of transgender people as a matter for academic debate. Again, questioning the validity of trans gender identity, and as such, discriminatory.
The preamble to the AASUA bylaws specifically commits us to working to overcome historical and ongoing inequities based on gender identity. Guiding Principle 5 in the Communications Policy is read and interpreted in that context: "The Association is committed to an equitable and non-discriminatory environment. As such, neither discrimination nor harassment will be tolerated in any communication.’
When universities forbid academics to ‘question the validity [of] transgender identity’ and the faculty unions that are the final line of defense of academic freedom do so as well, the danger to feminist inquiry could hardly be more serious. That is the situation in Canada today, a situation which is replicated throughout much of the world as academics who do not believe in gender ideology are smeared by students and fellow academics, face the loss of their livelihoods and have their personal safety threatened by violent activists. The GC Academia Network (https://www.gcacademianetwork.org/) contains dozens of stories of academics, mostly women, harmed by a university-fostered culture of ‘no debate.’
The Women’s Human Rights Campaign, a global grassroots organization campaigning for the protection of women and girl’s sex-based rights, calls on the AAUSA to rescind these Orwellian charges against Professor Lowrey and to defend her right to academic freedom. Universities and academic unions everywhere must end their culture of ‘no debate’, protect academics’ right to freedom of thought, and follow the example of the University of Essex, UK, which recently issued a comprehensive apology (https://www.essex.ac.uk/blog/posts/2021/05/17/review-of-two-events-with-external-speakers) to Dr Jo Phoenix and Professor Rosa Freedman, two feminist academics wrongly no-platformed.
Jo Brew, WHRC director, said, ‘WHRC offers its unconditional support to Professor Lowrey, who is facing trumped-up charges from the very union that should be defending her academic freedom. Universities must allow women and men who challenge gender ideology, which is so harmful to women’s sex-based rights, to express their opinions without these threats.’