On Wednesday it was reported by student press that the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP) have hired a lecturer, Dr. Aron Wall, who has previously expressed homophobic and transphobic views. Dr. Wall’s personal blog contains comments about the “obscene” and “unnatural” lifestyles of gay and transgender people.
While we accept that not all staff at this University will have fully consistent opinions and that the University is committed to the free speech of its members, there is a clear distinction between free speech and hate speech, and Dr. Wall’s comments fall squarely into the latter category.
In his blog post from 2015 “Reflections on Gay Marriage” Dr. Wall expresses homophobic views in the form of concern for gay individuals, claiming that gay marriage “hurts only the gay couple themselves, and anyone who cares about their well-being.” This kind of rhetoric is dangerous as it hides hate speech under the guise of care, distracting from its harmful intent. This approach is particularly common and pervasive, and the impact of his views upon student welfare should not be overlooked because of their ‘concerned’ tone.
We understand that Dr. Wall may also be supervising students in his role, and we are seriously concerned for the welfare of students, particularly those who are LGBT+ or those with LGBT+ friends and family, with whom he interacts as a supervisor or in any pastoral capacity. We have confidence in the University’s mandatory Equality & Diversity training that all new staff must undergo, but we nevertheless express our concern at the DAMTP’s choice to hire Dr. Wall. We note that even if he refrains from expressing harmful views directly to students, the welfare of students he interacts with will very likely be impacted by his existing public statements.
CUSU calls for a public apology from Dr. Wall, and a statement from the DAMTP ensuring that the utmost care and attention will be paid to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of any students or staff whom Dr. Wall supervises or otherwise works with. To quote the University’s combined equality scheme: “The University is responsible for taking steps to identify, prevent and eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation, and promote equality of opportunity and good relations.”
Response from DAMTP:
“We take the concerns of our staff and students very seriously. The Faculty of Maths would like to affirm its commitment to supporting current and prospective LGBT+ staff, students and visitors.
The aim of the Faculty is to create an inclusive environment of mutual respect where everyone who comes into contact feels valued, listened to and protected from discrimination. We recognise that the safety and welfare of our staff and students is paramount to creating a safe and supportive learning environment and we ensure that staff are aware of how to put our commitment to inclusion into practice.
We will further develop our programme of initiatives aimed at enhancing the inclusivity of the environment in which we work and study and strongly adhere to a zero tolerance approach to harassment and bullying based on sexual orientation, gender, disability or faith.
The Faculty does not accept any form of discrimination nor condones negative stereotyping and will remain vigilant and act decisively when issues arise.
We will actively work towards improving our efforts to ensure the wellbeing of our students and staff in close consultation with CUSU, the University’s Equality and Diversity Section and the Equality and Diversity staff networks.”
If you’re an LGBT+ student affected by these issues, please get in contact with the Office for Student Conduct, Complaints, and Appeals, with your Senior Tutor, or the CUSU LGBT+ Campaign.