A UNIVERSITY has admitted it made “serious mistakes” after two professors were blocked from taking part in seminars over accusations of transphobia.

The University of Essex has issued an apology after a report found it acted unlawfully by blacklisting a professor.

It also withdrew an invitation extended to another professor after her views were compared to ‘hate speech.’

In December 2019, Professor Jo Phoenix, of the Open University, had been due to speak at the university on the subject of ‘Trans rights, imprisonment and the criminal justice system.’

The Times newspaper reported some university staff members had accused the professor of being ‘anti-trans’ and ‘exclusionary.’

Tracey Loughran, a historian at Essex University, took to social media to say: “This speaker is part of anti-trans platform.

“Free speech is one thing, but trans rights are human rights and we shouldn’t be debating human rights.

“The campus must be a safe space for trans people. There’s a speaker vetting policy, how did this slip through?”

In a damning independent report, recently released to the public, barrister Akua Reindorf said some people felt “unsafe and threatened” by the prospect of the professor appearing on campus.

The report said there was a “credible threat” students planned to barricade the room, while a flyer circulated bearing a violent image and profanities directed at the professor.

The seminar was cancelled and the university issued an apology to the trans community.

The report found the cancellation amounted to a breach of the professor’s right to freedom of expression and the university’s legal duties to uphold this right.

The report added: “The later decision to exclude and blacklist Prof Phoenix was also unlawful.

“There was no reasonable basis for thinking that Prof Phoenix would engage in harassment or any other kind of unlawful speech.

“The decision was unnecessary and disproportionate.

“Moreover the violent flyer was wholly unacceptable and should have been the subject of a timely disciplinary investigation.”

In January 2020, Professor Rosa Freedman, of the University of Reading, was due to participate in a roundtable discussion on ‘The State of Antisemitism Today’ to mark Holocaust Memorial Week.

Complaints were made she had published views which amounted to ‘hate speech.’

Despite assurances she would be invited to appear at the event, concerns about her views were discussed by the university and she was not sent a formal invitation.

Prof Freedman wrote to her MP and the Universities Minister complaining of having been ‘blacklisted’.

In response to an interview she gave to the Sunday Times, a member of Essex University posted on social media comparing her views on gender identity to Holocaust denial.

READ MORE: Essex University trans talk is cancelled

She was subsequently invited to appear at the event later that month, on the purported basis timings could be adjusted.

The report said: “The decision made on or before January 9 not to invite Prof Freedman to the event was made because of her views on gender identity.

“The organisers were afraid that if she attended, controversy or disruption would overshadow the event.

“If the invitation had not been reinstated she would have been subjected to an interference with her right to freedom of expression.

“This would have been particularly egregious given that the topic on which she was due to speak was entirely unconnected to the question of gender identity and was a matter of academic expertise.”

Offering both professors an apology, the university’s vice-chancellor Professor Anthony Forster said: “The report makes clear that we have made serious mistakes and we need to do our very best to learn from these and to ensure they are not repeated.

“The review notes the particular responsibility placed on universities to protect freedom of speech within the law, and to ensure that a diversity of voices and views can be heard on our campuses.”