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Peter Mathieson pledges to ‘investigate’ Edinburgh students involved in pro-trans protests

‘It is my sincere hope that we can put behind us the display of intolerance we witnessed this week’


The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, Sir Peter Mathieson, says the university will seek disciplinary action against students who forced the cancellation of a film screening on campus.

On Wednesday, students blockaded a lecture theatre in George Square which was hosting a screening of Adult Human Female, a gender critical film which some have previously accused of being “transphobic”, although the film’s creators dispute this.

In a statement posted to the university’s website, Mathieson wrote: “I would like to express my extreme disappointment that last night, for the second time in six months, we were left with no alternative but to stop the screening of ‘Adult Human Female’ because of safety concerns for attendees”.

“I want to reassure the University community that we will take all steps available to us to fully investigate those who were responsible for the disturbances and to explore routes of action that can be taken to ensure we are not in this situation again in the future”.

“We condemn the actions which prevented freedom of expression and freedom of assembly on our campus”, he continued.

The statement seems to imply only those who blockaded the university venue will be disciplined, not those who demonstrated from a distance.

After the event was cancelled, campaign group Edi Youth in Resistance wrote: “We did it again! With intense university security protection AFAF [Academics for Academic Freedom] tried hosting a screening of the extremely transphobic Adult Human Female. We made sure they couldn’t.”

Last week, the independent filmmakers behind the documentary told The Edinburgh Tab: “Although the film has been accused of ‘transphobia’ its critics are unable to cite a single quotation from our interviewees of ‘transphobia’.” Their full statement can be found below.

Counter protests were also organised by the Cabaret Against Hate Speech, however this group was not involved in the cancellation of the film. The group is an LQBTQ+ and ally group that aims to organise counter protests against so-called hate speech events in Scotland through singing, dancing, and chanting.

— Ross Hunter (@_Ross_Hunter) April 26, 2023

It is unclear how Edinburgh University intends to discipline those who were involved in forcefully preventing the film’s screening.

The Vice-Chancellor highlighted in his statement that a cross-university group has recently been set up to consider how the fundamental rights of “academic freedom and freedom of expression” can be supported on campus.

Prior to Mr Mathieson’s statement, the university’s Students’ Union indicated its opposition to screening the film on campus.

“It remains unclear to us where the lines are drawn between the university’s commitment to freedom of expression, and the Dignity and Respect Policy, which aspires to create an inclusive and welcoming university community for all students and staff”, wrote the student Vice President Welfare.

A screening of the same film was cancelled in December. The event was rescheduled and security heightened for the second showing.

After the event was cancelled last week, the independent filmmakers behind the documentary told The Edinburgh Tab: “Although the film has been accused of ‘transphobia’ its critics are unable to cite a single quotation from our interviewees of ‘transphobia’. Shereen Benjamin, who teaches at Edinburgh University explicitly states that trans people deserve to have the same rights to dignity and respect as anyone else.

“The issue is that we believe a specific rights claim, that men who identify into the female sex be treated in policy and law as women, is detrimental to women’s rights. Critics can scream ‘transphobia’ at us. We could equally cry ‘misogynist’ back at them.

“Our real audience though is the broader public and it is clear that trans rights activists are terrified that a broader public will hear a reasoned, thoughtful, factual criticism of their position. This is a disagreement, not transphobia.

“What we are demanding is that the university allow the film to be rescheduled and to guarantee that it will go ahead without any disruptions so that women can freely meet to discuss the issues that affect them.

“The University College London managed this. Why can’t UoE?”

Featured image via: Jamie Prada (@jamieprada) and YouTube

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