Jonathan Best, a PhD student in the UK who has been accused of transphobia because of a number of posts he made on Twitter and on his blog, will now receive an apology from his university, along with compensation.
This news comes as the UK government is looking into passing new laws that would protect free speech at universities and allow students to sue for compensation.
Best previously came under investigations launched by the University of Huddersfield that dragged on since mid-2019, and included disciplinary hearings he attended. The probe was initiated after an anonymous fellow student reported him to the school.
The university’s case against him was based on his tweets being “potentially” offensive and disrespectful of other people’s feelings, as well as discriminatory and transphobic.
In one of the contentious tweets, Best said that trans women are “the same class of sex” as himself, i.e., males. Other screenshots of Best’s posts online, taken and sent to the university by the anonymous denouncer, showed that he did not believe things like misgendering and deadnaming actually exist, and also spoke out against what he sees as misogynistic trans ideology being promoted in schools.
Best, who defended himself on free speech grounds, has now been vindicated, as the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education found that the university’s investigation was rife with procedural failings. Huddersfield University will also have to pay the student £800 in compensation, and apologize.
The office, which deals with student complaints, acted upon receiving one from Best, and is now also telling the university to “review its disciplinary procedures” and do it quickly. Reports say that this is the first free speech case that the Office has handled so far.
“We consider that distress and inconvenience was caused to Mr. Best, which has not been recognized by the University,” the Office announced in February, announcing that they were not satisfied that he had received an adequate apology.
A university spokesperson said the school would comply with the Office’s ruling, but declined to offer any further comment regarding the case as a matter of policy.
Best, on the other hand, spoke about censorship and “low grade totalitarianism” that are preventing scientific discussion around issues like gender identity.
“In these free speech cases, the process is the punishment – getting through the process is grindingly difficult and stressful. It wears you down. It makes you wonder if speaking and writing honestly is worth it,” Best told the Telegraph.
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