An Oxford professor at the centre of a transphobia row has been given security guard protection after deciding not to ‘wait and see’ if alleged threats made against her were real.
Selina Todd is a professor of Modern History at St Hilda’s College but has been criticised by some for her stance on the importance of protecting women’s spaces, such as single-sex refuges, from anatomical men who self-identify as women.
The professor has warned against the dangers of shutting down debate and how discussions about women’s rights should not be silenced, telling BBC Radio 4 that previous hostility from academics and students had left her feeling ‘vulnerable’.
The academic said two students had warned her of the threats from campaigners who found her views unacceptable.
They were investigated by the university and found credible enough to provide protection, she said. Two male staff members are to be positioned in lecture halls before students arrive to diffuse potential action.
I understand those sceptical abt how serious threats made towards me were/are. As a historian, I like robust evidence. But on basis of limited info me and my employer could get, we decided not to wait and see if I’d get hit in the face like @bindelj before taking action.
— Selina Todd (@selina_todd) January 25, 2020
Prof Todd tweeted: ‘I understand those sceptical abt how serious threats made towards me were/are. As a historian, I like robust evidence. But on basis of limited info me and my employer could get, we decided not to wait and see if I’d get hit in the face like [prominent feminist Julie Bindel] before taking action.’
Ms Bindel responded in support: ‘It is terrible what’s happening to you, and we know that this whole period will be looked back on in horror, at least by decent people. Stay strong. Of course you will.’
The BBC reported Prof Todd as saying she had witnessed ‘quite antagonistic’ and ‘quite confrontational’ protests outside women’s rights meetings where she had been a speaker.
She said: ‘It’s always the case that groups’ needs and interests can conflict with those of other equally legitimate groups.
‘In the world today democracy is under threat and therefore we all have to defend the right of people to have freedom of speech and freedom of debate.’
Prof Todd told The Daily Telegraph universities were not places for bigotry, but somewhere to have a respectful, democratic, evidence-based debate.
She said: ‘This might sound like a storm in a teacup and something that’s just about student activists but students become graduates and Oxford students tend to become graduates who go into things like politics, the media or the civil service.
‘So if they are learning that no debate is the way to run a society we should all be worried.’
The University of Oxford said it did not comment on individual arrangements, but issued a statement saying it reviewed the circumstances and offered appropriate support to staff who raised concerns to ensure their safety and freedom of expression.