In an important victory for freedom of speech and academic freedom, former Open University Prof Jo Phoenix has won her employment tribunal against the institution, having suffered discrimination on the basis of her gender critical beliefs — and the FSU’s Communications Officer, Freddie Attenborough, has reviewed all the juiciest details from the panel’s extraordinary, 155-page ruling for The Critic. Here’s an extract:
Everyone at the FSU is delighted that Prof Jo Phoenix has won her tribunal case — the ruling found that The Open University’s failure to protect her from harassment from colleagues and trans activists was motivated by “fear of being seen to support gender-critical beliefs” and “fear of the pro gender identity section” of the university.
Following the ruling, Prof Phoenix described her victory as: “A message to all universities: you cannot stand back and allow gender critical academics to be hounded out of their jobs.” Let’s hope they’re listening, as there are a number of other, similar cases either just getting started, or in the Employment Tribunal pipeline.
One of those cases — and a potentially groundbreaking one at that — involves FSU member and former law lecturer, Dr Almut Gadow.
Almut is bringing an employment tribunal claim arguing that she was harassed, discriminated against and unfairly dismissed having been sacked by her former university employer for questioning new requirements to embed gender identity theory within that institution’s law curriculum.
The case is ‘groundbreaking’ in that ‘academic free expression’ lies at its heart. This concept, set out in a string of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), encapsulates how article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights protects academic freedom — not least by prohibiting universities from penalising academics for questioning an institution or its curricula.
UK courts have yet to properly consider ECtHR case law on academic free expression. In seeking judicial guidance on this from an English employment tribunal, Almut’s case can hopefully entrench these protections in domestic law.
Almut will also argue that valuing academic freedom is, in itself, a protected belief under the Equality Act 2010. Establishing this in law could protect many other academics whose careers are threatened by the rising tide of intolerance on UK campuses.
Assisted by the FSU, Almut has instructed James Murray, a solicitor with an unequalled publication record on this specific niche area of law.
Akua Reindorf KC, whose name has become almost synonymous with her ground-breaking work on the academic freedom of gender critical academics, will represent her in the tribunal.
Oh, and the name of Dr Gadow’s former employer, and the Respondent in her legal case?
The Open University.
You can watch Almut talking to Julia Hartley-Brewer about her case on TalkTV below.
And to find out more about her case, click here.