Vice-Chancellor regrets University response to Stock row

In her annual Oration today, Vice-Chancellor Professor Irene Tracey stated that the University response “should have done more to support” the trans community due to the “hateful” rhetoric surrounding Kathleen Stock’s invitation to the Union.

This follows allowing students to declare their pronouns via the Student Self Service. This comes after extensive policy discussions between the University and the OULGBTQ+ Society, which The Oxford Student can exclusively reveal.

Her speech today asserted that Oxford has a “role in the university sector to protect free speech”. Tracey therefore acknowledged that “some legal free speech will be hard for some individuals to hear”.

She balanced this by acknowledging “discourteous” and “intolerant” messages have been amplified “under the guise of free speech”.

Feeling “deeply saddened” at “abusive and threatening language and behaviours that our trans community suffered”, she expressed that “lessons were learned” on how to develop a better “culture of tolerance” in the future.

Discussions between University officials and students which took place over summer reflected this sentiment, focused on policies to support trans and nonbinary students.

In a statement from the OULGBTQ+ Society, they explained the new pronoun declaration on the online student record will make them “visible to all student-facing staff”. Their post also suggested looking towards the future possibility of visibility for students too.

The society believes this gender data policy “will make transition in the university easier and will make pronouns more visible” at the university.

A spokesperson for the University told The Oxford Student that they are “enhancing the way that student gender data is recorded and used”, allowing students to provide “pronouns on registration, if they wish, along with the gender they identify with”.

The system is “entirely voluntary and is in addition to confirming their legal sex and title”. Availability of this information to staff will “support an inclusive learning environment for all students” in their view.

Addi Haran Diman, OULGBTQ+ Society President, said on Twitter that they were “delighted to see a real tone shift and change of minds among the senior leadership, in stark contrast from their rhetoric in Trinity”.

The Oxford Student can also reveal that the OULGBTQ+ Society conducted a survey among trans+ students to use in these talks. 50% of respondents said they had “experienced transphobia in Oxford University spaces” and 64% confirmed Stock’s visit “worsened the state of [their] mental health”.

The survey also showed that 81% of participants were dissatisfied with how the University handled the Stock controversy, and 85% were dissatisfied with the Union’s response.

To present this lack of confidence, Diman created a report to highlight problems faced by transgender and nonbinary students, alongside proposals for change.

The Oxford Student has seen this report, which highlights a perceived lack of staff support by students, the complicated process to officially transition in the student system, and overly simplistic diversity training that does not cover transgender issues.

Meetings discussing solutions to these included college heads, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education Professor Martin Williams, and culminated in one with Vice-Chancellor Professor Irene Tracey in September.

This direct advocacy has contributed to the pronoun policy change on Student Self Service, alongside building foundations for a long-term plan for progress.

Diman told The Oxford Student that they “very much welcome the introduction of a pronoun field to the annual university registration”.

This follows their view that the University “made too many mistakes in the past in its lack of support for trans+ students, and has lost the confidence of many in the queer community”, particularly during their response to Stock in Trinity.

Diman was “happy that the University was able to see that and change its approach”, looking forward to wider change in the future.

This article was updated to include a statement from the University of Oxford

Image Credit: Cornelia Chen

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