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A PhD student at the University of Huddersfield has found himself the subject of a formal investigation after a complaint was filed against him for “transphobia.”
Jonathan Best, who researches and teaches in the music department, broke the news on his personal Twitter, ending an extended social media break to inform his followers and friends of his situation.
Best states the letter of complaint he shared “originated with a student” but “looked like it had gone through a member of staff who submitted it” on the student’s behalf.
The letter reads that the student feared victimization and wished to remain anonymous for that reason, alleging that Best “is in direct conflict with [the University’s] social media conduct policy.” At one point, the student refers the University to Best’s social media and Medium accounts to identify more transphobia, stating “I could not go through much more without harming my own mental health.”
In its conclusion, the letter lists statistics on the drop out rates and violence perpetrated against transgender University students, asserting “we can’t treat these views as just a difference of opinion.”
In complaint file documents verified by The Post Millennial, the complainant includes several screenshots of tweets originating from Best’s personal Twitter account. The tweets are captioned with the complainant’s own interpretation of their transphobic intent.
The tweets included range from general criticism of what Best calls “trans ideology” to praise for and Graham Linehan. Linehan, the co-writer of British comedy series Father Ted, has become an outspoken critic of gender self-identification, and has voiced concern over the early transitioning of young children. In the complaint submitted to the University, the complainant alleges Linehan is a “vocally transphobic individual” with whom Best “positively associates and agree[s] with.”
The complainant also includes screenshots of articles Best has written on Medium, a self-publishing platform. The articles discuss many issues ranging from Best’s own experiences as an HIV positive gay man in the changing LGBT community, to concerns about misogyny and male self-identification in women’s spaces.
Best confirmed he is not currently on any academic penalty or suspension while the investigation is underway, also noting that this is the first complaint that has ever been filed against him.
“I have done nothing deserving of censure from the University whatever!” Best says, adding he believes he has not violated the social media conduct policy. “By any reasonable interpretation of [the policies], no. But it depends on how they are interpreted.”
The University of Huddersfield has extensive policies which appear to guide student and staff social media conduct. As Best is a PhD researcher, his complaint still falls under an allegation of being in violation of the student’s policy. In section 3.2, the policy claims that the University can take disciplinary action against students even for personal views posted to their personal social media accounts. In 3.4, students are warned against disrespecting people’s “feelings,” and that “care should be taken to avoid language which may be deemed offensive to others.”
Huddersfield also has a Trans Student Equality Policy, which outlines nine different forms of investigable discrimination and victimization against transgender students, ranging from “belittling comments” to “displaying or circulating transphobic images and literature.”
At the end of the document, transphobia is defined loosely as “A fear or dislike of transgender people.”
Best takes issue with the vagueness of the policies, stating “If non-belief in the concept of gender identity is deemed transphobic—as it is by the UK Charity Stonewall—then there is a problem with the equality policy infringing my right to free thought and expression.” He continues, “I am not transphobic, and I consider the accusation that I am to be defamatory and lacking any reasonable evidence.”
Best is expected to appear before an investigations committee on Friday, August 9th.
“I do support the University’s policy of investigating all complaints, and I will fully cooperate,” he says, “Hopefully common sense will prevail, and the complaint will be dismissed.”
The University of Huddersfield was contacted by The Post Millennial and has not responded by the time of publication.