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Gender-critical feminist professor removed from service role for making students feel “unsafe”

Kathleen Lowrey was asked to resign from her role as the anthropology department's associate chair of undergraduate programs.

“I think trans ideology and trans activism poses serious dangers to women and girls. I don’t think “sex work” should be decriminalized; I think the Nordic model, which continues to criminalize the buying of sex (but not the selling of it), is the best policy approach to prostitution. I think biological sex is germane to women’s oppression and I think gender is a system that legitimates women’s oppression. I don’t take a celebratory attitude to gender identity, but a critical one. You don’t have to agree with me on any of these points, but you are going to be exposed to these perspectives at length during the course.”

This is how University of Alberta professor Kathleen Lowrey begins her Anthropology of Women class. She lays out the inspiration for the course, makes a point to tell her students that they are certainly not obliged to agree with her views, and lets students know they still have the option of dropping the course if they don’t feel it’s the best fit for them.

Lowrey has also adorned her office door with radical feminist quotes, such as one that reads,

“Women’s rights and trans activism are in direct opposition because that is how the men driving this anti-feminist movement have intentionally positioned themselves. That’s the whole point of it. It’s not about ‘trans rights’ – it’s about control.”

There are many such quotes, which Lowrey describes as “outspoken but not hate speech.”

But because of her views as a gender-critical feminist, Lowrey learned that an unspecified number of informal complaints had been made against her by students claiming she has made the learning environment “unsafe.”

Lowrey, who was serving as the anthropology department’s associate chair of undergraduate programs, was subsequently asked to resign from her role. Lowrey refused, and stated that if the University wanted to fire her from her position as chair, they could provide her with a letter laying out the reasons for her dismissal. 

She then received a letter from Dean of Arts Lesley Cormack, which informed her that “your appointment to the position of Associate Chair, Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Anthropology will conclude effective July 1, 2020. You are unfortunately not able to be as effective in this administrative role as the Department and Faculty require, and it is not in the best interests of the students or the University for you to carry on.” 

Cormack offered no concrete reasons as to why Lowrey was being dismissed. 

Although Lowrey was fired from a service role and not her academic position, her professorship is still affected: “being dismissed from a service position is bad, since one of the things I am evaluated on each year is my service performance. The evaluation is 40% about your teaching, 40% about your research, and 20% about your service,” says Lowrey. 

True North contacted the office of Dean of Students André Costopoulos and asked how many individuals complained about Lowrey and what the complaints alleged, but received a reply from UAlberta strategic communications manager Hallie Brodie refusing to comment.

True North also reached out to the UAlberta department of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and Human Resources Services, but did not receive a response. 

Some academics have called on the University of Alberta to reinstate Lowrey as associate chair, but her position has not been restored. 
At least one of Lowrey’s colleagues celebrated the university’s move, writing on Twitter, “Faculty member in my dept with transphobic posters on her office door has been removed from her role as Associate Chair, Undergrad Programs (although still a tenured prof). I support [the faculty of art’s] decision & am glad the university is protecting our students. #TransWomenareWomen.”

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