Current research is ‘out of date,’ but university is more afraid of social media criticism
A psychotherapist got a crash course in how university bureaucracy can suppress controversial research before he finally extracted an admission: His institution was afraid of being “politically incorrect.”
James Caspian, whose counseling specialty is transgender people, told The Times that Bath Spa University first approved his master’s project on people who decide to reverse their sex reassignment surgery and go back to living as their birth sex.
But when he asked for approval to amend the proposal to “include women who had transitioned to men” and went back without reversing their surgery (i.e., transgender), roadblocks started to appear:
Mr Caspian also asked if he could post a request on an online forum for people working in this field — the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) — as a means of recruiting participants.
He was told this would require a new submission to the university’s ethics sub-committee which, after discussion with the dean of the relevant department, rejected this request. On the sub-committee’s rejection form, it said: “Engaging in a potentially ‘politically incorrect’ piece of research carries a risk to the university.
“Attacks on social media may not be confined to the researcher but may involve the university.”
The university also said simply asking for participants in his study counted as “unpleasant material” and could hurt Bath Spa’s “reputation.” Caspian filed a complaint with the university and told the Times its rationale means “the university cannot withstand disagreement, argument, dissension.”
He later told BBC 4 that his proposal was rejected because Bath Spa thought it best “not to offend people,” even though he was seeking to update “out of date” research, according to The Independent:
Mr Caspian argued the research needed to be done as he had found growing numbers of young people who were regretting having surgery, and he said some were even “traumatised”.
His research proposal was influenced by a conversation with Dr Miroslav Djordjevic of the Belgrade Centre for Genital Reconstructive Surgery in 2014. Mr Djordjevic said he had carried out seven reversals that year, more than ever before. …
“The whole field has completely changed over the last few years and the idea that we might use the information from the research we are going to do in a way that won’t help people is completely wrong,” he said.
Bath Spa says it’s investigating Caspian’s complaint and won’t comment.