Support Lecturers and Respect Students

by Cathy Boardman

Support Lecturers and Respect Students

by Cathy Boardman
Cathy Boardman
Case Owner
I am taking BIMM Ltd to tribunal. I have been bullied, victimised and discriminated against, and punished for doing my job; caring about students and encouraging critical thought.
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Cathy Boardman
Case Owner
I am taking BIMM Ltd to tribunal. I have been bullied, victimised and discriminated against, and punished for doing my job; caring about students and encouraging critical thought.
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Latest: Nov. 18, 2022

Preliminary hearing

Hi again

I haven’t updated for a while while I’ve been getting ready for the preliminary hearing which is on Monday (21st November).

Not much happens at a preliminary hearing. It is ma…

Read more

I am taking private HE institute BIMM Ltd to tribunal for unfair dismissal and discrimination

Essentially, I have been fired for doing my job, and for doing what management asked (not discussing trans issues in lectures). Having a focus on women in a lecture on sex and gender was deemed trans exclusionary and sparked a campaign against me by a small cohort of students. 

I have also twice raised issues of sexism to staff; once around popular culture, once about a member of staff and a safeguarding concern.

Who even is this woman?

I am a woman, a mother, and a feminist, and until recently I taught cultural studies to music students. I care deeply about women’s rights, and believe that we cannot fight for our sex based rights if we cannot acknowledge that biological sex exists. This view is protected in law.

I don't think people should  be constrained by gendered expectations. Girls can play football (go Lionesses!), boys can play with dolls. I also empathise with those who feel that they don't fit in with society’s restrictive gender rules, as this is something I experience and would have likely identified as non-binary if I were a teenager today.

I am now 43 years old, a lesbian, proudly female, and the mother of beautiful sons (I am the only one who likes football). 

OK, what did she do?

The job of a cultural studies lecturer is to encourage students to think. We present them with ideas, theories, and try to equip them with the skills to challenge these theories in an academically sound way. We ask them to critically evaluate what we loftily term ‘cultural texts’ (mainly music in this case, but also social media phenomena, hairstyles, fashion, mainstream media, etc.) in light of these theories, and - crucially - to create their own arguments, challenge these from various perspectives to form their own ideas, standpoints, and opinions. So far so standard academic practice right?

It is also important to define the terms we use. To this end I define the terms ‘sex’ and ‘gender’. I state that sex is biological, it is immutable, and that gender is the set of expectations associated with each sex (Harvard referenced of course). These expectations and norms change through time and place. I state this for clarity, as the words are often used interchangeably. I remind students throughout the year that any theoretical or potentially ambiguous terms they use in their essays should be clearly defined, and used consistently.

This had me branded transphobic. Students trawled through my Facebook, looking for fuel for the fire, and found a post in which I had said that I did not think it was fair that a biological male could compete in women’s weightlifting, but that women of colour were not allowed to use swimming caps designed for Afro hair. I did not call Hubbard a man, but a ‘biological male’, which is accurate.

Management had asked me to not discuss transgender issues with students, which I had not. In fact, it was not talking about this, but focussing on women, that led to the student campaign. Both the course leader and Principal said that our students were not intellectually equipped to deal with gender issues critically. I find that insulting to the students. Crowdfunders for students’ double mastectomies are endorsed by BIMM, yet those in charge do not believe that they are critically equipped to consider whether this is a good idea. Where is the duty of care, particularly as more and more detransitioners are coming forward, angry at having been let down by adults who should have been watching out for them?

Why is this important? I believe students should be able to think, and that limiting discussion is limiting them. Blocking critical thought is anti-education and a disservice to young people.

Another part of cultural studies is to pose questions. Towards the end of a session on sex and gender, the week after a lecture on race and racism, I asked students to consider blackface and drag. Why was one deemed as acceptable and one very much not? Students were invited to consider this, and other topics raised in the lecture, to discuss in seminars. There was not a great deal of interest, but some thought drag was sexist, one trans student said that drag was seen as transphobic, most did not have strong opinions either way. At the time I had not made my own mind up about it.

This, along with saying in the staff room a year later that I found drag sexist (not proselytising, I was asked about a drag show), was presented to me as part of my ‘perceived trans-exclusionary views’, when the Principal told me about the campaign in which a small group of students was ‘out to get’ me. He brought up the case of Kathleen Stock, who had suffered years of bullying and harassment, including death and rape threats. He stated clearly that if that happened to me, he and the organisation would not support me.

He refused to discuss what I had said, or explain why it was seen as trans exclusionary. The students waging the campaign were invited to talk to me so that I could hear their side, as was the staff member who complained. Nobody did, so I was in the Kafka-esque position of being told I had done something wrong and had to change, but with a refusal to tell me what or why.

Anything else?

Sadly yes. A student came to me who felt she could not access student support as the male member of staff allocated to support her was sharing naked videos and photos of himself on social media where he is linked to students. I made the deputy safeguarding lead aware of this, as I felt it was the right thing to do. I have been sacked, the student has been expelled. As far as I am aware, the man is still uploading sexual images, and still in post.

I do not have union support so have no choice but to crowdfund to pay my legal fees. BIMM’s treatment of me contravenes their own policies on bullying, harassment and victimisation, as well as academic freedom, freedom of speech and my protected beliefs under the Equality Act 2010.   


Please support me to show that our students deserve better and so do our teaching professionals.  

Update 6

Cathy Boardman

Nov. 18, 2022

Preliminary hearing

Hi again

I haven’t updated for a while while I’ve been getting ready for the preliminary hearing which is on Monday (21st November).

Not much happens at a preliminary hearing. It is mainly a matter of laying down the fundamentals of the case, but it will include setting a date for the main hearing, so I will update again very soon.

In the meantime, an article was published in Music Teacher magazine this month which you can read here.

Once again, thank you so much for the support. It has really helped me get through these past months emotionally to know that people care, as well as making the legal process possible.

Solidarity.

Cathy 

Update 5

Cathy Boardman

Oct. 15, 2022

Podcast with Julie Bindel

Good morning!

I haven’t updated for a while because … well, there hasn’t been much to update on!

We are getting ready for the preliminary hearing next month, and will update about that.

Things in the wider world have been interesting, with the shocking-but-sadly-not-surprising news about Mermaids etc. 

Before that came to light, I had a chat with the indomitable Julie Bindel for her podcast, which came out this morning.

https://juliebindel.substack.com/p/cathy-boardman-another-inconvenient#details

Update 4

Cathy Boardman

Sept. 8, 2022

Update

Ey up everyone. 

I just wanted to give a quick update. As well as the MoS article, I was on GB News last week. The interview is available to watch here if you didn't see it or would like to watch it again or share it. Probably unsurprisingly, I have mixed feelings about both of these, but I am in a position where I need to carry on trying to be heard. 

Hopefully there will be something much more nuanced coming out very soon so watch this space!

The last few weeks have been hard, and I have felt physically and emotionally drained, but reading through the supportive comments from donors is (I was going to say humbling, but quite frankly it's) mind boggling. So thank you again. 

Please continue to share with anyone who might be interested, and more importantly, keep having conversations with people day to day.

They want us to shut up but we won't! 


Solidarity always, 


Cathy 

Update 3

Cathy Boardman

Aug. 26, 2022

Enormous thanks. We are going big!

Ey up one and all. 

I've been reading through the comments from donors and would be lying if I claimed you haven't brought a tear to my eye! 

No doubt many of you have seen the press coverage as it stands so far. There have been pieces in the Times , Telegraph, Mail on Sunday and Spiked, and I am having more offers come in. There are other articles I have just seen, although I do want to point out that these have not all come from me directly, and that I'm not always keen on everything they say (or the headlines). Free speech though, eh?!

Ultimately though, this has led to an amount of money in donations that makes me feel confident that together we can win this! 

Lots of people seem to have a similar reaction, roughly 'this is bonkers', and there are more of us each day pointing out that the emperor is, in fact, naked. 

A few comments from Crowd Justice donors ask me to get in touch, or are people I feel I'd like to get in touch with, but I can't. Crowd Justice is chosen by solicitors for its safety; this means that they get all the money (not a penny to me personally), but also I do not have access to anybody's details other than the first name, if you chose to display it. 

If you do want to get in touch, you can get hold of me through twitter @grittynorthern

And my word, it is taking some grit, but us northerners have that in spades. 

Solidarity always.

Update 2

Cathy Boardman

Aug. 16, 2022

I've got a date!


No, not that kind of date! I have a date for the preliminary hearing which will be in November. 

This is where a judge will lay out the facts and claims of the case, and we will then start to prepare for the main hearing, for which it could be a long wait. We are at the mercy of the courts here. 

I'm not going to lie. Although I would always regret not standing up for what I believe is right, for me and everyone else, meaning giving up is not an option, this is a more than a teensy bit terrifying. And, of course, not going to be cheap. 

Every donation, share, like on my tweets, positive message, helps to turn that fear into excitement, so thank you so so very incredibly much!

Solidarity always, 


Cathy

Update 1

Cathy Boardman

Aug. 14, 2022

Wow.

I just want to say thank you. I’m blown away by the amount of support, and that we almost doubled the initial target in 48 hours!

This means that the solicitor will be happy to go ahead with the case and we can fight this.

It also goes to show how we can all be stronger together. The more of us stand up and be counted, the less we can be bullied into submission and silence.

My aim is to be as honest, open and upfront about as much as I can be, and so will continue to update. Right now I am waiting for the response and don’t have a tribunal date, but will keep you all up to date.  

Solidarity and strength to us all, we can do this!

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