“Far-Left” university bosses have been accused of forcing out their own diversity adviser after staff protested that criticism of transgender activism was “threatening”.
The equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) adviser at the University of Sheffield had been employed for more than two years working on LGBT+ inclusion and a race equality action plan.
But in October last year, his colleagues from a trade union complained to managers about him signing a “statement of solidarity” with Prof Kathleen Stock, the philosophy expert who quit the University of Sussex after a lengthy bullying campaign by trans activists.
The anonymous staff in a trade union at the university, who described themselves as “senior LGBT+ champions”, said his signature – alongside 2,800 staff from other UK universities – was “particularly concerning given his role in EDI work at the university”.
In a letter, staff also protested that his Twitter account had questioned why Girlguiding was allowing trans girls as members and objected to him inviting the Equiano Project, a free-speech forum founded by a black woman, to campus.
They asked for a meeting with bosses “to provide assurances that the welcome LGBT+ focus of EDI initiatives over the coming year is not being directed by staff members whose public statements suggest that they fundamentally oppose work to further inclusion of LGBT+ communities in this university”.
The letter, seen by The Telegraph, was sent to Prof Gill Valentine, the university’s deputy vice-chancellor, and Ian Wright, the director of human resources. It also praised “significant pushback” from staff to proposals to cut ties with Stonewall.
‘Woke-Left bias’ at university
Within a month, the adviser, who asked The Telegraph to protect his identity for fear of reprisal, was told he could no longer work in LGBT+ and race equality at the university as his views “created friction with key stakeholders”.
He was swiftly moved to different work in the human resources team, without any formal investigation, and his appeal and request for an apology through whistleblowing procedures were rejected, documents show.
During grievance meetings, Prof Valentine wrote in her notes: “The complainants stated there was a conflict given that [he] was a member of the HR team and the EDI team who was working with the LGBT+ staff network, and that his views could be threatening to trans members of that group”.
When the adviser asked managers in a grievance meeting whether he could tweet his own viewpoints, he was told: “Just don’t share them, don’t make them public.”
He felt he had no choice but to quit the university in July and has now gone public to warn of an “ideological bubble” of senior leaders “crumbling” to “dictatorial” trade union activists.
He told The Telegraph: “The far Left have hijacked important issues and senior leaders in universities have folded under that pressure and are actively removing anyone who dares to make their legal views known.”
The university told him in letters that his treatment was “appropriate in the circumstances” as “a formal process would not have been a supportive one for you”, and it said it had not discriminated against his beliefs.
Toby Young, the director of the Free Speech Union, said: “This case illustrates how little tolerance there is for dissent within the woke church. If you stand up for the wrong kind of victim, as this man did when he supported Kathleen Stock, you are immediately excommunicated.”
The adviser said he noticed a “woke-Left bias” in much of the University of Sheffield's equality work, including references to “white privilege” in mandatory anti-racism training for first-year undergraduates.
The university’s mandatory EDI training has been completed by 7,000 members of staff and at least 930 members of staff have completed implicit bias training courses.
The University of Sheffield said it is “absolutely committed to freedom of speech and we support our staff and students to hold and debate a wide range of views and ideas”.
A spokesman said: “[This individual] worked in our equality, diversity and inclusion team (EDI) and, in his role, supported a number of university equality strategies.
“Following [his] public statements, some staff questioned whether they would be able to work well together on specific equality projects. His managers spoke to him and some of his work duties changed, but he continued to work on EDI projects performing similar tasks.
“Responsibility to progress equality at the university remained the same, at the same level and within the same team. The grievance process following his complaint and the subsequent appeal found that the refocus of his role had not led to any detriment.”