Exeter, Devon UK • Apr 18, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home News “Anti-LGBT” DebSoc speaker re-invited by Guild Management

“Anti-LGBT” DebSoc speaker re-invited by Guild Management

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“Anti-LGBT” DebSoc speaker re-invited by Guild Management

Image: Stavrialena Gontzou, Unsplash

From her initial invitation, through to being uninvited and finally re-invited by a Students’ Guild director, Caroline Farrow’s platform at the Debating Society’s ‘This House Believes Sex Work is Real Work’ event on Friday 18 September was the centre of controversy.

The Free Speech Union, led by Toby Young – an advocate of what he calls “progressive eugenics” – sent a letter to Vice Chancellor Lisa Roberts demanding that Farrow’s invitation be reinstated. 

Less than five hours later, the speaker received an email from Guild management, which explained “I can confirm that this was sent in error” and “we welcome your attendance.”

The Debating Society released a statement shortly before the event’s start, suggesting that the retraction was not an error, but because “her views have become a lot more extreme since she last attended an event with us.” 

DebSoc also explained how “the Students’ Guild reinvited this speaker” and “have told us we cannot run this event unless Farrow attends.” 

The initial retraction of the invitation explained “a number of articles have been brought to our attention concerning your widely-cited anti-LGBT activism” and noted that it is “in direct contradiction to the inclusive culture we wish to promote.”

…the University and [Guild staff] have failed completely to support them

Anonymous student

One student told PinkNews that the DebSoc committee was “fuming” about the re-invitation. They added: “While this was [the society’s] mistake, the University and [Guild staff] have failed completely to support them when they tried to correct it.”

Exeposé understands that the University reminded the Guild of their responsibilities to uphold freedom of speech laws. 

Farrow was first invited to speak at a DebSoc event in 2017, also against sex workers. She was investigated by the Guild for distributing unauthorised leaflets which described various sexual acts in violent detail. 

Farrow was then allowed to attend another DebSoc debate the following year.

She has previously called the Pride parade a “deceptive move to push the LGBT political agenda and expose children and families to lewd behaviour.” Farrow has also been denied entry to the USA.

In a 2018 YouTube video, Farrow describes herself as “dangerous and revolutionary” as she recites the transphobic poem ‘Tran-I-am’. One line reads “I am woman you are man, we cannot change that, tran-I-am.” 

In response to an Exeposé reporter’s question about female-dominant sex work, Farrow claimed that “women are not physically able to rape – they just can’t.”

The University of Exeter signed the #TransRightsAreHumanRights campaign at the start of last week, saying they are “committed to ensuring that they safeguard trans rights at the University and in our wider communities.” 

The Guild has previously faced criticism for sanctioning the appearance of Katie Hopkins to argue against refugees in 2018, and an ECU speaker who was accused of homophobia.

I’ve commissioned a full review into this to work out what happened that led to the inviting, uninviting, and inviting again

Vice Chancellor Lisa Roberts

LGBTQ+ Society told us: “We, as a society, are not firmly for or against no-platforming and I’m sure our members have differing views on it. What saddens me, though, is how quick some people have been to dismiss the impact of Caroline Farrow speaking in their university has on our trans students. 

“With JK Rowling’s transphobic comments being in the centre of UK news recenrtly and the UK government scrapping their proposed self-identificaiton laws for trans and non-binary people, now is a more important time than ever to be standing up for the trans community.”

In an interview with Exeposé, Vice Chancellor Lisa Roberts said: “We don’t in any way condone her thoughts and her views on LGBT matters – they’re really fundamentally at odds with our values and commitment to inclusivity and diversity. 

She also announced: “I’ve commissioned a full review into this to work out what happened that led to the inviting, uninviting, and inviting again”

A Guild spokesperson said: “Following issues around an event organised by Debating Society last Friday, we’re going to be conducting an internal investigation so we can fully understand what happened last week. 

“We appreciate that there has been confusion, frustration and disappointment on many sides, and we are committed to ensuring that we are transparent in what we find in the review so that answers are given to questions.”

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