Alison Richard: The Quiet Revolutionary

On Friday, November 10, 2006, the Guardian published a correction regarding the word "bailiwick." It was clarified that the term refers to an area under particular authority, derived from the rule of a bailie or bailiff, and not from bailey, the outer wall of a castle.

In another correction printed on Thursday, November 2, 2006, the Guardian provided an update to an article that mentioned a member of the Cambridge University investment board. The individual’s name was David Swenson, not Svenson.

Alison Richard, the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge, does not believe in simply telling her colleagues what to do. In her fourth year in the position, she prefers to challenge them to think about problems and engage in debate. During her October 1st speech, which was actually given on October 2nd due to Cambridge’s unique customs, she expressed her concern about the lack of focus on undergraduate teaching in research-intensive universities and the challenges of combining research and teaching. Richard believes that the current system experiences "ambiguities and confusion" regarding the roles of college-based staff and the pressure on faculty-based staff to excel in research.

Although Richard did not provide a solution, she speaks confidently about her bailiwick, despite the opposing issues of Oxford’s Vice-Chancellor, John Hood, who is facing resistance to his governance reforms. Throughout her four years in office, Richard has focused on building a team to "mobilise and catalyse the momentum of the institution" and has eliminated the university’s budget deficit. Additionally, the university has shifted its budget to the schools within Cambridge and there is a constant effort to balance the importance of allowing independent research while promoting collaborative efforts between colleagues.

When Richard arrived in 2003, she had to handle the controversial topic of top-up fees. However, she managed to consolidate the colleges and her new colleagues to design a needs-blind bursary system, which was the first of its kind announced. The successful implementation of this program helped her to launch governance reforms, a £1bn fundraising campaign for Cambridge’s 800th anniversary in 2009, and a new pay structure. Despite some opposition, the university’s new rules on intellectual property rights were ultimately approved.

The perception was that running a campaign for the vice-chancellor’s position at Cambridge University was too big of a task with 31 colleges to consider. However, the vice-chancellor’s experience is that there is a sense of purpose amongst all the colleges. Although it is more challenging to streamline admissions and fundraising efforts when working together, it is possible with a defined goal. The message is that they can either compete and waste time and resources or collaborate and raise more money. However, the vice-chancellor did not force anyone to work together, emphasizing that telling people what to do is not an effective strategy. She believes they are all in this together. Colleges are essential, but they have no real existence without the academic departments and the University of Cambridge. But she thinks unanimous agreement is not desirable as there should be room for debate and rigorous debate. The vice-chancellor has turned her attention to promoting international links amongst the top research universities. She is concerned about the underfunding of undergraduate education and social justice. Cambridge has set up a bursary system to achieve a level playing field. To enable poorer students to attend university, living expenses also need covering, and the bursary system should be adjusted if necessary. Her long-term aim is to free Cambridge from overdependence on the government, and she hopes to achieve this through fundraising efforts. She opposes the idea of privatizing the university and prefers the pragmatic approach of growing themselves out of dependence on the government. They are considering a voucher system in the future where the government provides needs-based bursaries to students to carry with them. However, this is a long way off.

Alison Richard received a tremendous response from the university and alumni after her speech in October, though it was ignored by the press. She is open to new ideas and debates regarding teaching methods and what students should learn. Having spent many years in the American system, she originally thought that students should start with a broad education and specialize later, but many in Cambridge believe the opposite. Richard admits that she doesn’t know the answers to some of the questions surrounding this debate, as she is new to the system and hasn’t taught in it. She believes that implementing top-down directives for curriculums would be harmful. As vice-chancellor, her responsibility is to ensure that topics are being discussed and thought about. It remains to be seen whether Richard, who has focused on Cambridge, will throw out new challenges on a national level.

Alison Richard is the vice-chancellor of Cambridge University, overseeing 31 colleges, 8,500 staff, and 18,000 students. The university has an annual turnover of £646m and net assets of £1.5bn. Richard was an anthropology student at Newnham College, Cambridge, before earning her doctorate at London University. She moved to Yale University in 1972 and became a professor of anthropology in 1986 and a provost in 1994. Her research specializes in the lemurs of Madagascar. She is married and has two grown-up daughters.

How I Became A UN Interpreter

Being an interpreter may seem glamorous with all the travel involved, but the reality is much more prosaic. While it can be fascinating to work with people from all over the world, it is also high-pressure work that involves a lot of time spent on easyJet flights.

My upbringing did not lend itself to a career in languages. I grew up in north London, my parents were not linguists, and we did not go on holidays to France. However, I discovered a love for French in an after-school language club when I was 10 years old. When given the opportunity to learn German, Latin, or Russian in my second year of secondary school, I chose Russian despite barely even hearing about the country.

I found Russian to be a puzzle and a challenge, with noun declensions and cases to navigate. I realized that language learning is about building stepping stones and watching the language come together before your eyes. My first time abroad was on a school exchange to Belarus, which opened my eyes to a whole new world of exploration.

My A-levels in French and Russian were passable, but my year studying abroad in St Petersburg convinced me to pursue languages at university. My first-degree in French and Russian resulted in a first, but it was teaching English in Russia after graduation that helped me improve my skills. I had to make Russian friends and communicate without the help of other native English speakers. When I returned home, I applied to work as a linguist at GCHQ, undergoing six months of interviews, aptitude tests, and vetting before being accepted.

My job at GCHQ involved translating, transcribing, and analyzing material for intelligence purposes. The subject matter was interesting and engaging, but I couldn’t discuss the details outside of work. After completing a Master’s in interpreting at the University of Bath, I took the UN interpreting test, which is notoriously difficult. Passing the test led to a new career opportunity, working on UN missions abroad. It took about a year to establish myself as a freelance interpreter, but now I work primarily from Russian and French.

Interpreters work in pairs, trading off interpreting for half-hour periods. It can be stressful work, with communication having significant impacts on people’s lives. It is not always possible to translate literally, so the key is interpreting idea by idea. When I don’t understand something, I take a step back, think about the context, and try to piece together the meaning. It requires quick thinking and plenty of coffee.

As a language interpreter for international organizations such as the UN, I face a myriad of challenges on a daily basis. The most obvious one is the diversity of accents. For instance, French-speaking African republics have particular accents which are tough to get accustomed to. They use an intricate vocabulary and complex language patterns, which can prove challenging even for fluent speakers. To add to the pressure, most of my work is also webcast, meaning that a significant number of people are listening in live. Some events are more high-profile than others, such as the UN human rights council session, which is both political and webcasted, making it particularly tricky.

Four years into this career, I’m still trying to balance my demanding job and caring for my 18-month-old daughter. I resumed my work duties when she was only five months old, and my husband came to Geneva with me to help me manage. Now that we’re back in Gloucestershire, I try to schedule work trips spanning a few days at a time, allowing me time to be home with my daughter. Thankfully, the pay is worth the sacrifice, and I try to work around ten days in a month. While many interpreters are single, being freelance works for me and my family, providing flexibility and the ability to take on more stimulating work.

Looking ahead, my language skills have taken me to different places over the years, such as Bali, Nairobi, Vienna, and across Europe. I’ll be heading to Copenhagen and Moscow soon, too. This profession has been an adventure, and I appreciate that I never know what’s next – that’s what makes it exciting! As for me, I never plan too far ahead, as this job doesn’t allow for certainty. But that’s part of the thrill. My name is Helen Reynolds-Brown, and I interpret Russian and French for international organizations, such as the UN.

Restorative Justice In UK Schools ‘could Help Reduce Exclusions’

Campaigners are calling on the government to support the implementation of “restorative practice” in schools, which prioritises conflict resolution over punishment. The Restorative Justice Council (RJC), best known for its work in the criminal justice system, hopes to reduce the number of exclusions by expanding its existing programmes. In 2015-2016, almost 6,700 children were permanently excluded; equivalent to 35 children every school day. Rates of expulsion have risen each year since 2012-13.  Restorative practice in relation to schools includes a variety of techniques to build strong relationships and address conflict constructively. The RJC aims to challenge zero tolerance systems which are seen as punishing minor breaches of regulation. 


The RJC is promoting three short films feature children from primary and secondary schools who explain how restorative justice works. The children also discuss their roles as “restorative ambassadors”, helping their peers to solve problems and to develop empathy. Restorative Justice Council’s interim CEO, Chris Straker, who was a teacher himself for over 30 years, understands that schools are under great pressure to achieve progress. Straker warned that exclusions, both temporary and permanent, may compromise the young person’s employment prospects as well as educational opportunities, in some instances leading to mental health problems and future criminal behaviour. Restorative approaches have long-term benefits not only for individuals but also for wider society.


One example of successful positive reform can be found at the Joseph Norton academy in Kirklees, West Yorkshire, where a restorative approach has led to a significant reduction in exclusions. The academy accommodates pupils aged between 6 and 17 with complex emotional, social and mental health needs that can make the behaviour of the children particularly challenging. Restorative approaches address behaviour by seeking to understand the feelings behind the behaviour; this leads to improvements in participation and outcomes. 




1,300 Ways To Say The Same Thing

Kindly inform Stella to bring along the following items from the store: six spoons of fresh snow peas, five thick slabs of blue cheese, and perhaps a snack for her sibling Bob. In addition, we require a small plastic snake and a large toy frog for the children. Stella can pack these items into three red bags, and we will meet her at the train station on Wednesday.

The Online Speech Accent Archive, located at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, contains over 1,300 unique recordings of individuals speaking the aforementioned passage in various accents. The purpose of the archive is to showcase a broad spectrum of speech accents and dialects from diverse linguistic backgrounds around the world. The collection comprises of both native and non-native English speakers who were selected as they correctly articulate most of the consonants, vowels, and clusters of Standard American English.

Dr. Steven H Weinberger, a linguistics professor and the archive director, arranges for the collection of samples from individuals worldwide. Though some recordings are of low quality and are discarded, the archive accepts a vast majority that meets its quality standard. Contributors also provide information about their demographics and linguistic background as it helps users identify key variables of each accent.

The archive allows for language and geographical sorting, and a phonetic transcription accompanies each recording. These features permit users to compare accents of speakers from different regions and backgrounds. Listeners can appreciate the differences and similarities among the various accents.

Dr. Weinberger asserts that accents are not a result of faulty learning but are systematic to an individual’s native language. As children, we typically develop an automatic ability to differentiate between a speaker from our community and a foreign one. The speakers of a particular foreign language share a common sound system, such that the addition, deletion, substitution, or alteration of certain sounds by such speakers is predictable and systematic to their native language. French speakers, for instance, have an accent in English because they apply their French sound system when communicating in English.

Despite biases against certain accents, the archive aims to increase appreciation of different speech sounds by society. It is critical to bear in mind that accents should not be dismissed as erroneous or incorrect pronunciation. Nevertheless, the study of accents reflects upon the broader aspects of speech, which are rich and complex.

The archives provide further evidence supporting the idea of a critical period. Only young individuals are capable of speaking English natively. One may take a Korean learner as an example. Suppose they initiate learning English at 11 and has spent 20 years of their life in the USA while speaking English, they will still exhibit the Korean accent. However, an individual who commences learning English at four and shifts to the USA for five years will not hold a Korean accent. Therefore, it is the age of starting to learn, not the exposure duration, that plays a vital role.

The archive serves both educational and research purposes. Numerous groups utilize it, including linguists and phoneticians, English teachers to non-native speakers, speech pathologists, and engineers who train speech recognition mechanisms. Although Weinberger might become tired of hearing endlessly about fresh snow peas and blue cheese, plenty of individuals appreciate it. A quick Google search reveals that people leverage it for many projects, from ringtones to art projects. YouTube is full of recordings, and Irish composer Cathal Roche has created saxophone pieces based on the archive.

Although there have been academic papers and master’s theses based on the archive, Weinberger thinks that most people take pleasure in listening to accented speech sounds. In his words, "I’m sure there are plenty of drinking games based on the archive!"

Actors who struggle to get a given accent right might have been helped for those who had the archive at that time. Examples include Van Dyke and Sean Connery, who topped Empire magazine’s poll for the worst accents in cinema history for their work in Mary Poppins (1964) and The Untouchables (1987), respectively. Actors frequently contact Weinberger to express their gratitude for helping them with obscure speech accents for scripts.

Of what’s next, Weinberger says they are preparing for a significant overhaul, which will bring better maps via Google, more searchable sounds, and more phonetic inventories from the world’s languages. They are compiling a database on the syllable structures available in the world’s languages. Additionally, they have created a computational device that can automatically compare two accents and show the specific phonological speech patterns that distinguish one accent from another. The best part? It’s free to anyone.

Weinberger always carries a voice recorder with him to capture new accents whenever he encounters one. Although he doesn’t know how long the archive will run, he explains that they only represent 300 native languages while over 6,000 languages exist worldwide. They still have a long way to go.

Is The Paperless School In Sight?

When Islay High School in Scotland invested in purchasing a mobile PC and tablet for every pupil and teacher, it was imperative that they find savings to support the cost of implementing this technology. To raise the £141,000 required to buy 245 Samsung Ultra mobiles and satisfy the requirement of purchasing another 41 Samsungs for next year’s Year 7 intake, they had to review where their budget was going. The answer was unexpected, with the school realizing that a significant expenditure was taken up by photocopying fees. In 2005/2006 alone, the school had spent over £20,000 on paper, ink, and jotters. Upon further scrutiny, it was revealed that at least 50% of this budget was used for paper-based memos.

To combat this, the school introduced a central intranet system that could house all the necessary information. All data was divided up for staff and pupils, and this eliminated the need for paper memos. The school estimated that if every pupil had an Ultra Mobile and every teacher had a PC, that a significant reduction in photocopying and printing costs could be achieved.

After discussions with suppliers, the school discovered that it could transform its sophisticated photocopier into an industrial-grade scanner by adding a PC and specific software. As a result, all incoming paper documents were scanned and saved on the school’s intranet rather than being printed in hard copy. The conversion was a turnkey solution that could be carried out under the school’s existing contract with Canon.

The deployment of this system resulted in an 80% reduction in printing and photocopying costs every term, and the school succeeded in cutting costs by much more than expected. The school staff communicated all memos through the intranet, and most students used OneNote on their Ultra Mobiles to do all their assignments, leading to a reduction of paper usage. Hence, the school could eliminate the need for big, bulky handouts, such as course notes, reminders, and memos.

Another advantage of reducing paper expenditure is a recycling program. Besides, investing in open-source alternatives helped teachers to save money and reduce overall expenditure. For instance, Adobe Photoshop is costly, and purchasing a license for the entire school can be expensive. However, a few software such as Photoshop Elements, The Gimp, Artrage, Blender, Open Office, and Audacity could do the job.

As teachers search for ways to minimize expenditure, it is possible to toggle between digital and paper-based methods, which would help reduce costs and promote environmental friendliness. Through innovative solutions, costs can be drastically reduced without compromising the quality of education.

Blogging for Professional Development

Encourage all educators in your institution to compose and publish a blog post once a month, on a regularly rotating basis, on a common blog. This way, everyone can share a valuable educational method they have found successful. By doing so, you will have access to helpful everyday professional development contributions from colleagues without having to pay for substitutes to attend costly and possibly ineffective training programs.

Ewan McIntosh, the National Advisor for Learning and Technology Futures from Learning and Teaching Scotland, recommends this practice.

Savings with 80%

As per Robert Hart, CEO of Intuitive Media and former ICT advisor with Sheffield, expensive software with elaborate features often makes up for only 20% of the user’s requirements. Consequently, purchasing a software with 80% of the necessary abilities can save teachers a lot of money. Apple’s iWork costs less than Microsoft Office and provides most of the latter’s features.

Further savings can be achieved by utilizing Pixelmator instead of Photoshop while offering 80% of the latter’s functions. For instance, Pixelmator (Mac only) has a price of £30.61, whereas Photoshop CS3 has a rate of £569.

Savings with Open Source

Introducing Linux "thin clients" to your institution can lead to substantial ICT budget reductions, allowing you to improve school infrastructure. Moreover, providing courses like digital applications at GCSE and Applied GCE ICT at A level can be achieved easily with open-source software without any costs. Implementing open-source solutions like Karoshi for servers can save around £30,000, allowing you to distribute more hardware and computers among both students and staff.

Garry Saddington, ICT Coordinator from Skegness Grammar School, and Jo Harris, Network Manager from Dover Grammar School for Boys, are advocates for saving costs by using open-source technology.

Final Thoughts

By adopting cost-effective techniques like blogging for professional development and utilizing open-source software, teachers and educational organizations can save a substantial amount of money. These savings may be utilized for the betterment of the institution by providing more infrastructure and hardware for both staff and students.

Divisive NUS President Malia Bouattia Defeated In Election

Shakira Martin, the current vice-president for further education of the National Union of Students (NUS) has unexpectedly defeated incumbent president Malia Bouattia in a three-way election. Bouattia, who became the first black Muslim woman to serve as NUS president last year, faced allegations of antisemitism after she referred to her first university as a “Zionist outpost” and criticised “mainstream Zionist-led media outlets”. Martin secured 402 of the 721 votes cast, with Bouattia receiving 272 and outsider candidate Tom Harwood 35. Following Bouattia’s election, 26 student unions voted to disaffiliate, with three opting to leave the NUS.

The election was seen as a verdict on the future direction of the NUS, with debate focused on whether the body should be focused purely on practical student concerns or should extend to wider political issues. Martin pitched herself as a centrist and pragmatist able to heal the existing division in the NUS. Speaking after the result, Martin pledged to fight for further education members, claiming that 70% of the NUS’s members were in this category and frequently ignored.

A single mother who left home at the age of 16, Martin previously studied at Southwark College, where she became involved in the NUS. Her “business skills” education occurred while working as a drug courier. Martin has voiced support for Jeremy Corbyn in the past but claims to be undecided in the forthcoming UK general election.

Bouattia’s term in office was dogged by controversy, including claims of failure to tackle antisemitism and accusations of racism made by the home affairs select committee. However, supporters state that her leadership increased diversity across the NUS and that she tackled hate crimes.

When the newly elected president, Shakira Martin, spoke about her experience growing up as the child of refugees who fled the Algerian civil war when she was just seven years old, her supporters erupted in cheers and gave her a standing ovation. Martin emphasized the sacrifices she made in pursuit of her education and triumph over the adversity she faced as a result of her beliefs. Despite receiving death threats and harassment, Martin’s resilience and determination have remained unwavering throughout her leadership.

On the other hand, outsider Harwood’s criticisms of the union’s "toxic political culture" failed to generate much visible support. However, when he mentioned that Jewish students felt unsafe at the conference, he was cheered.

The Union of Jewish Students expressed their approval of Martin’s victory, applauding the election of Jewish student Izzy Lenga as vice-president for welfare, as well as the passage of two motions aimed at combating antisemitism.

A spokeswoman for the Union of Jewish Students congratulated Martin on her win, rejecting the divisive rhetoric of the current president, Malia Bouattia, whose past antisemitic remarks have been a problem for Jewish students for over a year.

Harry Goulbourne Obituary

Harry Goulbourne, a pioneering scholar and one of the first black professors in the UK, recently passed away at the age of 73. He was highly regarded for his work in qualitative social science and authored or co-authored a dozen books, such as Ethnicity and Nationalism in Post-Imperial Britain (1991), Race Relations in Britain Since 1945 (1998), and Caribbean Transnational Experience (2002). Harry’s research focused not only on the black community but also on individuals who shared similar experiences of migration or exclusion, regardless of race or ethnicity. His main interests included politics, race and ethnicity, transnationalism, migration, and Caribbean families.

The fifth of seven children, Harry was born in Clarendon, Jamaica to Lucy (nee Mickell), a market trader, and Albert Goulbourne, a small-scale farmer and tailor. In the 1950s, his parents migrated to Britain and settled in Camberwell in south London, where his father worked at the Woolwich Arsenal. Harry joined them in 1959 and experienced the racial politics of the playground at Peckham Manor school before being taken under the wing of enlightened and progressive teachers who developed his curiosity and intellect.

As an undergraduate at Lancaster University, Harry co-founded a group known as Contemporary Blacks, which was influenced by Marxism and Black Power. Later, he organized (with John La Rose) one of the first summer schools for black children. After obtaining a history degree in 1971, he spent a year teaching at his old school before pursuing a doctorate at Sussex University. In 1978, he became a politics lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, which was then a center for many of the intellectuals of the liberation movements around the world.

In 1980, Harry became a senior lecturer in politics and subsequently dean of the faculty of social sciences at the Jamaican campus of the University of the West Indies (1980-86). Following this, he returned to Britain to be principal research fellow at the Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations at the University of Warwick (1986-1994). He then became director of research for social sciences and arts at (now) the University of Gloucester (1994-98). Finally, in 1998, he became the chair of sociology at London South Bank University, where he set up and was director of the Race and Ethnicity Research Unit, which he ran until retiring in 2011.

Harry was known for his generosity and passion, and encouraged young people, especially black scholars. He was a kind, gentle, intelligent, and loving man with a passion for literature, music, and art. Additionally, he was an accomplished poet. Harry is survived by his wife, Selina (nee Rebelo), an academic lawyer whom he married in 1973, their sons, Hugh and Neil, and three grandchildren.

DfE Calls For Boost To Starting Teachers’ Salaries In England

The UK government is seeking to increase teachers’ starting salaries in England by over 16% in the next two years. The Department for Education has urged the school teacher review body (STRB) to lift the minimum for new teachers by 8.9% in September and a further 7.1% the following year. This would take qualified teachers’ starting salaries from £25,714 to £30,000 in September 2023. The government’s move is in response to its 2019 Conservative election manifesto. However, teachers with more experience will only see tapering rises, with the highest end of the pay scale increasing by just 2% in 2023-24. Experienced teachers and senior school leaders will receive an increase of just 3% in 2022-23 and 2% in 2023-24.

In its submission, the Department for Education stated that the pay rises would come from existing school budgets, creating a potential shortfall for other areas. On this basis, the department considered "substantially higher" increases to be not feasible, suggesting that pay increases across the board would eat into school funding. The pay rises for new teachers are intended to help to recruit and retain young teachers, with increased salaries for experienced teachers potentially seen as unnecessary on this point. However, the pay rises are not predicted to have a significant impact on retention rates, with only 0.25% improvement expected and approximately 1,000 more teachers staying in the profession.

Four main teaching unions submitted a joint appeal to the STRB, requesting equivalent pay increases for all teachers and school leaders. The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) requested a 12% pay increase across the board. The National Education Union urged the STRB to recommend that all teachers and school leaders receive the same increases as proposed for new teachers and for the government to fully fund it.

In separate news, the University and College Union announced five more days of strikes this month, with staff at 68 universities planning a walkout over pay, pension and working conditions. Employers were said to have failed to make concessions, including on changes to pensions, which the union said could lead to cuts of 35% in retirement income for typical members. The strikes are expected to affect over a million students.

MRI Scientists Win Nobel Prize

Sir Peter Mansfield, a prominent British scientist, has been bestowed with the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his notable contributions to the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) invention. He was jointly awarded the honor with the US scientist, Paul Lauterbur. Both Nobel laureates discovered techniques that paved the way for the extensive applications of MRI in hospitals. MRI utilizes the non-invasive mechanism of generating three-dimensional imagery of the human body, which has been particularly useful in dealing with brain and spinal cord injuries and illnesses. The Nobel assembly at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden acknowledged their crucial findings that led to the development of modern magnetic resonance imaging.

Sir Peter is positioned in the Magnetic Resonance Center at the University of Nottingham, where he began his lectureship in 1964. He has been felicitated with the Wellcome medal, a fellowship at the Royal Society, and a knighthood in 1993. Stephen Cox, the executive secretary of the Royal Society, congratulated Sir Peter for winning the most prestigious award in science, making it a hat-trick of wins for UK scientists. Cox also acknowledged Sir Peter’s work in developing the utilization of gradients in the magnetic field and mathematically analyzing signals, paving the way for the invention of a useful imaging technique that has significantly improved diagnostics in many diseases.

Professor Lauterbur of the University of Illinois, who has also been awarded numerous awards for his contributions to MRI, shared the prize with Sir Peter for the groundbreaking discoveries in the application of magnetic resonance technology to visualize different structures. Thanks to their exceptional work that is now an essential diagnostic tool in medical research and diagnostics.

LGBT Event With Peter Tatchell To Go Ahead Despite Free Speech Row

Despite a controversy over freedom of speech involving prominent gay rights activist Peter Tatchell, an event geared towards challenging prejudice against LGBT people will proceed as planned. The organisers of a talk at Canterbury Christ Church University expressed disappointment on 13 February after the National Union of Students’ (NUS) LGBT representative, Fran Cowling, withdrew from the event. Cowling accused Tatchell of racism and transphobia, stating that she did not wish to share a stage with him. In an email to the event’s organisers, Cowling referred to Tatchell’s signing of an open letter that had appeared in the Observer, railing against the growing trend for universities to suppress views that contradict their own. Cowling claimed that this constituted support for transphobic individuals. Although organisers noted that there had been no other objections to Tatchell’s participation, neither Cowling nor the NUS was willing to explain her allegations further, when asked by The Guardian.

The event is intended to foster debate on whether the best path forward for the LGBT community is reform and equality, or social transformation. Other speakers planned for the event, such as Sue Sanders, co-chair of Schools Out and organiser of LGBT History Month, stated that they intended to share a platform with Tatchell and expressed confusion and concern over Cowling’s allegations. Professor Bee Scherer of Queer Paradigms, who will also be speaking at the event, remarked that she disagreed with the NUS, and expressed concern about the difference between a trans ally with a different opinion on freedom of speech and somebody who was transphobic. Tatchell also argued that Cowling had the right to refuse to speak on the same platform, but not to accuse him without evidence of wrongdoing. Organiser John Gilmore expressed disappointment that the NUS had refused to come and attend the discussion concerning “re-radicalising queers”.