An open letter
An open letter to the master and senior tutor of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, in the run-up to my public talk on Tuesday October 25th, and in response to their ignorant and insulting characterisation of my work as “offensive, insulting and hateful”.
To the master and senior tutor of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge
In response to their email to the fellows and students of the college regarding my planned talk on October 25th
Dear Pippa and Andrew (if I may),
I’m writing to respond to your ignorant and insulting characterisation of me to Caius students and academics, which you must have known would be shared more widely and then become public. [The text of that email is appended to this post.]
I am of course sadly used to people who should know better—people with high-profile posts in great academic institutions—making a show of defending free speech, open debate and academic standards out of one side of their mouths, even as they say “however” out of the other. I am also sadly used to being casually defamed: such is the fate of everyone who, like me, refuses to be frightened off talking about the baleful impacts of gender-identity ideology on vulnerable groups, including women, children and same-sex attracted people.
The reason ordinary people like me have had to stick their necks out and force proper consideration of changes to laws and rules that impact on all of us, in the face of campaigners whose slogan is “no debate”, is because of the utter failure of people like you. It’s because the very people who should be brave—the people whose job is to hold space for free speech, and to ensure that the students in their charge are inculcated in the culture of academic freedom—have turned out to be cowards.
You said in your email to Caius students and fellows that my views are “offensive, insulting and hateful”. Caius, you said, “should be a place for the highest quality of research to be produced and discussed, rather than polemics”. What “highest quality of research” on gender-identity issues have you or Caius produced or discussed? What about my work is polemical? Have you even read my book?
You also say that you both work hard to make Caius an “inclusive, diverse and welcoming home for our students, staff and Fellows”, and that my event “will not contribute to this aim”. How inclusive and welcoming do you think this sort of shunning makes your college feel to students, staff and Fellows who care about sex-based rights? To those who want to attend my talk, but are frightened that there will be protests, enabled by your unwillingness to give unqualified support for free speech? To women who understand their identities as based on biology, not tired sexist stereotypes? To the people—and some do still exist in Cambridge; even if you don’t hear from them, I do—who still care about the highest ideals of academia, and watch despairingly as it is shredded?
You tell the little totalitarians of Caius College that you will not be attending the event on Tuesday. Why not? If you truly thought I, and what I say, are so awful, surely you’d like to point out my errors and show me up? Why not come and tell me to my face that I’m offensive, insulting and hateful? Why not critique my book and tell the world what I have got wrong?
I’m sure you’ve read “1984”. Do you remember the moment when Winston cries out under torture: “Do it to Julia”? I think you are afraid of your own students. You know that if you don’t kowtow to the new identitarian orthodoxy, they might turn on you. You’d rather they took out their anger on me, and leave you alone.
If you don’t have the decency to come to the event on Tuesday, let’s meet up on another occasion. I’d like to hear from you directly, in person, why you thought it was all right to characterise me as bigoted to an entire academic community, without so much as getting in touch first to find out more about me or my work. Please suggest a few days and times.
From: Andrew Spencer (CAIUS) <XXXXX>
Sent: 19 October 2022 13:35
To: Undergraduates <XXXXX>; Graduates <XXXXX>
Cc:Pippa Rogerson <XXXXX>; College Tutors <XXXXX>
Subject: A message regarding Criticising gender-identity ideology: what happens when speech is silenced, 25 October
We are responding to concerns raised with us by members of Caius about the 25 October event here featuring Helen Joyce. We are writing in our personal capacities, not as Master and Senior Tutor but as Pippa and Andrew.
Freedom of expression is a fundamental principle which we wholeheartedly support. Individuals should be able to speak freely, within the law. Views should then be challenged by debate, key in academic freedom. This is the case no matter the subject or topic.
However, on some issues which affect our community we cannot stay neutral. The event featuring Helen Joyce is not a College event, although it is taking place at Caius. We do not condone or endorse views that Helen Joyce has expressed on transgender people, which we consider offensive, insulting and hateful to members of our community who live and work here.
Caius should be a place for the highest quality of research to be produced and discussed, rather than polemics.
We will not be attending the event. The College has already made a statement to the media.
We have worked hard and we will continue to strive to make Caius an inclusive, diverse and welcoming home for our students, staff and Fellows. We feel events such as this do not contribute to this aim.
Pippa and Andrew