EHRC accused of ‘Kafkaesque silencing’ by withholding trans report

ehrc accused of ‘kafkaesque silencing’ by withholding trans report

Trans activists

The equalities regulator has been accused of “Kafkaesque silencing” after refusing to publish its first report into censorship of the transgender debate at British universities.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) paid £18,000 for an academic to write a summary report into whether academics feel able to discuss “gender wars” on campuses in 2021, which was based on the scholar’s separate study at City, University of London.

The EHRC agreed to publish its report only when the City study was released, but this is now potentially never going to happen.

This is because, as The Telegraph revealed earlier this month, the latter has descended into chaos as City last month “confiscated” the final findings from Dr Laura Favaro, the sociologist who led both projects, and allegedly made her redundant after activists cried transphobia.

Now, MPs, peers and academics have accused the watchdog of being “accomplices” to “intolerance” by insisting on still waiting.

Dr Favaro seeking employment tribunal

The saga began in 2021 when both sets of research began.

The EHRC confirmed it received its complete report as planned on April 4, 2022. The separate study then continued collecting survey data, interviewing dozens of academics and analysing documents in anticipation of publishing later that year.

However, Dr Favaro then wrote an article in Times Higher Education which infuriated trans activists, who complained to City that the study had “caused harm”. City found that there was “no evidence” it breached any ethics rules, but Dr Favaro’s line managers told her, she says, that “City considers my data to be dangerous” and was “frightened of making it public”.

The Telegraph understands that interviewees told her that they had experienced threats of violence, hostility from colleagues, felt their careers “can’t survive that sort of backlash” and that they have to have “secret conversations” to avoid reprisal and because “we are all so afraid”.

Amid mounting pressure from activists, City allegedly locked the email account Dr Favaro used to communicate with survey respondents, and demanded that she hand over all of her interview and survey data and delete any copies of it, before making her redundant on March 31.

She is crowdfunding for an employment tribunal claim which is likely to take years to conclude.

‘Kafkaesque situation’

This has raised questions over the EHRC’s insistence on waiting for the study, given its own report is ready and has already been shelved for a year.

Prof Frank Furedi, a sociologist at the University of Kent who has written about cancel culture, told The Telegraph: “It’s quite important for the EHRC to take its mission seriously, especially given what appears to be a major travesty of justice and infringement of academic freedom.

“It’s a very Kafkaesque situation where they basically have become accomplices to the silencing of this study.”

Sir John Hayes, chairman of the Common Sense Group of 60 Tory MPs, told The Telegraph: “This information does need to be made public. There is a disturbing increase in the restrictions that are imposed on people who dare to expose some of the politically-correct myths that pervade amongst the establishment… there’s a good argument for it to be made available.

“The EHRC should perhaps match its words with actions.”

Baroness Jenkin of Kennington, a Conservative peer, said: “Given the amount of taxpayers’ money, we deserve transparency and to know what is going on.

“There is now a real risk that it will never be published. Any further delay risks the EHRC being seen to pander to the intolerant voices who wish to have these findings silenced.”

EHRC rejects allegations

The EHRC said it “rejects allegations that we have been influenced to delay publishing any report”, adding that it was initially “intended as an internal facing report only, to help us assess the veracity of a potential problem,” and its contractual agreement was with City, not Dr Favaro.

The spokesman added: “We later informed Dr Favaro that we would publish this summary – even though we were not contractually obliged to do so – once the full research report had been peer reviewed and published, so as to enable us to link, as appropriate, to her wider findings. This is because the summary report is based on a small selective sample, so the findings are not generalisable. The full report has not yet been published.

“Due to legal proceedings it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

City previously said that it “refute[s] the allegations made against us and reject the context in which they are presented”.

City University was contacted for comment.

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