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Row over gender critical university Rector

15 February 2024
University 0

The University of Edinburgh is facing a backlash after Simon Fanshawe was nominated as its new Rector.

Fanshawe, who also has a background as a comedian, was instrumental in founding the LGBT charity Stonewall in 1989, but in 2019, signed an open letter criticising Stonewall for allegedly neglecting “women’s sex-based rights and protections” and for labelling those who disagree with its gender policies as transphobic.

His nomination was welcomed by an academic group advocating for free speech on campus, especially in the wake of several disputes related to cultural issues.

However, activists supporting transgender rights at the university are demanding the university cancel Fanshawe's nomination in favour of someone who more strongly represents the values of equality, accessibility, diversity, and inclusion.

They argue that his nomination “creates a hostile environment for the many trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming students studying at the university".

Although Fanshawe is not a co-founder of the LGB Alliance, a group known for its critical stance on transgender ideology, his support for and participation in its events have drawn criticism.

The Rector's role, a position dating back to 1859 and once held by Winston Churchill, involves presiding over the university court and representing the staff and student body.

Amidst the controversy, Fanshawe has offered to meet with those who oppose his nomination, he says, “I am delighted and honoured to have been named Rector. I will do all I can to advance the university and its staff and students and fearlessness in the exchange of ideas.”

The University's Vice-Principal and Secretary, Leigh Chalmers, also expressed anticipation for working with Fanshawe in his new role.

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