Last year, students protested outside Caius College while an event hosting Helen Joyce took placeAlex Parnham-Cope for Varsity

Simon Fanshawe, a leading supporter of the advocacy group LGB Alliance, will speak at a ‘free speech’ event at Gonville & Caius College in May.

Fanshawe has previously claimed that the LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall, which he helped found, has become a “propaganda machine”, preaching “divisive gender ideology” that is “eroding women’s rights″.

The LGB Alliance, which Fanshawe supported the foundation of after leaving Stonewall, was criticised last year by the head of Consortium, an umbrella group of LGBT organisations, for having been “set up to promote transphobic activity rather than pro-LGB activities”.

An email seen by Varsity advertised the talk as a discussion about how important free speech is, how “self-appointed gatekeepers” are restricting debate, and how “pursuing diversity” has “created a set of prohibitions” in society.

The invitation for Fanshawe to speak at the Caius event was offered by Joe Herbert, 87, a life fellow and neuroscience professor. It is not the first time Herbert has been embroiled in controversy. Last year, accusations that he had bullied and harassed a junior female colleague during discussions over the college’s ‘Legacies of Enslavement’ report were deemed “well founded” by Caius College.

Set to be held on the 5th of May, the event will begin with a forty minute talk by Fanshawe before a nominated ‘discussant’ questions him. The discussant will be Jacqui Gavin, a Cambridge-based trans activist and campaigner who was the first chair of the transgender network in the Civil Service, advising and consulting on trans issues. The discussion will then be opened to the rest of the audience, with politics professor David Runciman as chair.

LGBT reps at Gonville & Caius Students’ Union (GCSU) opposed the talk, calling it “deplorable”. In a statement seen by Varsity, the reps said: “Inviting speakers that stand against the rights and freedoms of trans people into our home, the home of many brilliant trans people, cannot be stood for”.

They also accused the college of prioritising “the whims of misogynistic retired fellows, rather than the vibrant and accepting student body”.

Fanshawe co-founded Stonewall in 1989, but has recently started to voice concerns over the inclusion of trans people in the charity’s aims. His opposition to Stonewall first came to a head in 2019, when Fanshawe was amongst twenty-two signatures of an open letter to the Sunday Times which accused Stonewall of “undermining women’s sex-based rights”. The letter led to the creation of the LGB Alliance.

Writing in the Daily Mail, Fanshawe has claimed that trans activists “wrecked” Stonewall and has called for organisations to withdraw from Stonewall’s ‘Diversity Champions’ scheme which provides businesses with advice on how to make their workplaces more inclusive to LGBTQ+ people.


Mountain View

Sexist bullying claims during Caius slavery row ‘well founded’, report says

Controversial speakers have been invited to speak at events in Gonville & Caius before, with fellow Arif Ahmed hosting the “gender-critical feminist” Helen Joyce last Michaelmas term. Caius Master Pippa Rogerson and Senior Tutor Andrew Spencer boycotted the talk, while students protested at Great St Mary’s Church.

Responding to the concerns, Simon Fanshawe told Varsity: “I believe that sex matters and also I have respect for those who choose to live in gender non-conforming ways. Universities have at their core the exchange of ideas and good disagreement. I am delighted to have been asked to speak at Gonville & Caius.”

Joe Herbert told Varsity: “The current challenge to the ability to freely exchange a variety of opinions and viewpoints and encourage vigorous debate without fear of retribution or repression is a topical issue for everyone. The Fellows and student body have a wide variety of views, which deserve expression. Misogyny is not one.”

Herbert continued: “Students have complained to their tutors that they feel constrained from expressing their views because of adverse social consequences. Discussing free speech will be welcomed irrespective of social or sexual attitudes, there is no cause for distress. Without disagreement there is no progress.”

Caius College was also approached for comment.