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“We should have done more”: Vice Chancellor addresses University’s handling of Stock controversy

Oxford University “should have done more” to protect trans members in the past year, Professor Irene Tracey has said. 

In her first oration to the university as vice-chancellor, Professor Tracey, Vice Chancellor of Oxford University, said that she is “disturbed” by the “ amplification of discourteous, intolerant and hateful rhetoric” faced by transgender students and staff over the past year. 

This comes after Kathleen Stock’s controversial address at the Oxford Union earlier this year — a decision that sparked substantial protest from students and staff across the university. 

While several student groups called for Stock’s invitation to be rescinded, Prof Tracey told the Times last May that Stock had “a right to come and speak. It’s as simple as that.”  At the Oration, however, Professor Tracey expressed regret at her handling of the controversy.

Tracey began by re-stating the University’s commitment to free speech, describing the issue as having been “centre stage” during the year. She continued: “I have been clear about our role in the university sector to protect free speech: it is core to how we teach subjects and expose students to different views”, adding that “this also goes hand in hand with our commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion.”

Tracey said she felt “deeply saddened” by the “abusive and threatening language and behaviours that our trans community suffered this year” which she described as being made “under the guise of free speech”.

On the University’s response to such issues, she reflected: “we should have done more to support them; rest assured lessons were learned. 

“In this university, I expect more and we will continue to strive to create a culture of tolerance and respectful disagreement on key issues of the day. That is how we learn together and evolve.”

Responding to the oration on X, formerly Twitter, President of Oxford’s LGBTQ+ Society Amiad Haran Diman wrote: “I was delighted to see a real tone shift and change of minds among the senior leadership, in stark contrast from their rhetoric in Trinity term.

“My meetings with university officials over the summer made me, for the first time, cautiously optimistic. And I very much hope that I won’t be proven wrong.”

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