University distributes survey featuring "homophobic" views

Alex Gervás and Ella McCaffrey on a recent survey distributed by Newcastle University

multiple writers
16th July 2020
Image: Student Data
Content Warning: homophobia, transphobia
On 14 July, Newcastle University shared a survey from PhD student Laura Alonso Martínez. The survey was titled: “Evaluation of knowledge, attitudes and experience of training on human sexuality amongst university students.”

According to Alonso Martínez, the study was intended to compare Spanish and English perceptions of LGBTQ+ communities. It was also meant “to detect worrying and potentially harmful views or behaviours towards the LGBT+ community”.

However, many Newcastle students have condemned the language employed by the survey as homophobic and derogatory.

“The survey was very unclear and promoted outdated stereotypes rooted in sexism, homophobia and transphobia”

Ben Campbell, Newcastle University’s LGBTQ+ Officer

Newcastle student Eb Mitchell explained that including statements such as ‘Sex with “a transgender” is not natural’ in a University-distributed survey was offensive and disheartening. Nadia Ahmed, Newcastle’s LGBTQ+ Welfare and Equality Officer, concurred that the survey enables the “legitimisation of harmful language surrounding identity”.  

Crucially, as expressed by student Michael Duckworth, the survey failed to consider how members of the LGBTQ+ community might feel. “The most insulting part of the survey was the ‘homosexuals should not be allowed to work with children’ question," said Duckworth.

"That question outright insinuates that homosexuals are predators and paedophiles."

After closing down the research, the University admitted that the survey “should not have been distributed” and committed to review their processes.

However, Campbell argues that the lack of attention given to the distribution of the survey is still a cause for concern. “It is good that it has been taken down, but it should never have gotten to the stage in which it was mass shared in its current state,” he opined.

Alonso Martínez has explained that English is not her first language and apologised for any unintentionally offensive phrasing. Martínez has also confirmed that the survey was authorised by Newcastle-based supervisor Professor Simon Forrest; Forrest has not returned the request for comment.

Ahmed assured students that working was being done "to ensure that this can never happen again”.

“We want to demonstrate solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community and allies, we urge anyone personally affected by this incident to reach out to us”

Nadia Ahmed, Newcastle’s LGBTQ+ Welfare and Equality Officer

The LGBT+ Society made a statement defending the use of alternative ways of collecting information. The statement added: "however, we challenge the university to provide a valid justification as to how these blatantly offensive remarks were allowed to be sent into every student's inbox."

The statement also stressed the lack of clear content warning: "This survey appears to target the entire student body, LGBTQ+ students included, whilst exposing these students to harmful homophobic and transphobic rhetorics."

Featured Image: Student Data

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