In the UK academy, we have become accustomed to students deploying the ‘No Platform’ policy to silence external speakers. Now this same censoriousness seems to have spread to the world of academic journals, as evidenced by the pressure put on two academics recently to stand down from their editorial roles.
In the first instance, Sarah Honeychurch, one of the editors of the journal Hybrid Pedagogy, received a formal email from Chris Friend, the journal’s managing editor, asking her to resign her position. This was all because she had signed a letter to The Sunday Times, in which a number of academics critiqued the close relationship between the LGBT charity Stonewall and UK universities. The letter argues that via the education section of the Stonewall Diversity Champions Programme, trans-awareness workshops are being delivered to academics which present only one set of ideas on gender, some of which are anti-scientific yet presented as objective fact.
In the second instance, Michele Moore (full disclosure: I have just co-edited a book with her), another signatory of The Sunday Times letter and honorary professor at Essex University, found herself the subject of a petition demanding her resignation from the journal Disability and Society, where she is editor-in-chief. This was sparked by the letter, but her thinking on transgender issues is well known: she is concerned that children with complex psycho-social needs, including autistic children, are vulnerable to being pushed towards transitioning, exposing them to a lifetime of medical intervention and potentially sterility. The Free Society Best Price: $13.55 Buy New $17.54 (as of 04:55 EST - Details)
Friend, in justifying his decision to push out Honeychurch, says that ‘just as marginalised students who feel unsafe in school face obstacles to learning, marginalised authors who feel unsafe in journals face obstacles to writing’. ‘Before any debate can take place, our authors must be safe’, he continues. ‘[This] is not a matter of shutting down an argument or censoring a perspective. It is about holding space for a group that needs protection against the entrenched powers of authority already in place.’
Dr Angharad Beckett, associate professor of sociology at the University of Leeds, and an editor at Disability and Society, resigned her post over Moore’s involvement with the letter. She says that Moore’s views are ‘damaging to the wellbeing of trans children and their families’ and that the Sunday Times letter ‘will do little to make transgender colleagues and students feel welcome in universities’.
Thankfully, Taylor and Francis, the journal’s publisher, is standing by Moore and has not asked her to resign. Jessica Vivian, a director at Taylor and Francis, tells The Times: ‘Having seen both the petition and social-media discussion online, we are working with the journal’s editor and board to put into place a review of the journal’s editorial policies.’ But, she stresses, ‘our focus remains on ensuring the journal continues to challenge, debate and publish research from across the full spectrum of views’.