I can’t believe I just posted about this very topic, and universities having a conflict over truth versus social justice, and this very problem raises its ugly head in a UK university (see Jonathan Haidt: The Conflict Between Truth and Social Justice at Universities“). There I was, on the way to work and listening to Radio 4 when an interview with a transgender researcher played out in a strange exposition of deja-vu. I generally see myself as someone advocating for social justice and think the term, SJW, as a pejorative, is annoying and says more about the person saying if, often, than the subject of the term.
What’s interesting is that the researcher is one used to working on transgender issues. He wanted to look into an increasing propensity for post-op transition patients to request reversal surgery. The inference is that they regret the decision that they made. This came about from the researcher being in contact with a prominent European surgeon who had seen a large increase in his workload of such surgery.
As the Guardian reported:
Bath Spa University is conducting an internal inquiry into claims that it turned down an application for research on gender reassignment reversal because it was “potentially politically incorrect” and would attract criticism on social media.
James Caspian, a psychotherapist who specialises in working with transgender people, proposed the research about “detransitioning” to the university in south-west England, which, he said, initially approved the application.
When he went back with his preliminary findings that suggested growing numbers of young people, particularly women, were regretting gender reassignment, Bath Spa said his proposal would have to be resubmitted to the ethics committee, which rejected it.
Caspian, who enrolled on an MA course at the university, said he was “astonished” by the decision and had sought legal advice.
“The fundamental reason given was that it might cause criticism of the research on social media, and criticism of the research would be criticism of the university. They also added it’s better not to offend people,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday.
“A university exists to encourage discussion, research, dissent even, challenging ideas that are out of date or not particularly useful.”
According to Caspian, the university said: “Engaging in a potentially politically incorrect piece of research carries a risk to the university. Attacks on social media may not be confined to the researcher, but may involve the university.
“The posting of unpleasant material on blogs or social media may be detrimental to the reputation of the university.”
Caspian is a trustee of the Beaumont Trust, a charity that provides education about and support to transgender, transsexual and cross-dressing people, so it’s not as if he is trying to undermine the trans community, as far as I can tell.