The Univ. of Rhode Island Must Support Professor Donna Hughes' Right to Free Speech

The Univ. of Rhode Island Must Support Professor Donna Hughes' Right to Free Speech

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Jennifer Gingrich started this petition to President, University of Rhode Island Dr. David M. Dooley and

Dr. Donna M. Hughes is the Endowed Chair of Gender and Women's Studies at the University of Rhode Island. A longtime champion of women's rights, she is also editor-in-chief of the online journal Dignity, which publishes articles and studies about violence and exploitation faced by women and girls.

In February 2021, Dr. Hughes  published an article on the feminist website 4W, expressing her concerns about the effects of the gender identity movement on women's sex-based rights, stating

  • "The biological category of sex, particularly women’s sex, is being smashed. Women and girls are expected to give up their places of privacy such as restrooms, locker rooms, and even prison cells. When biological males identify as trans-women, they can compete in women’s and girls’ sports."

In the article, Dr. Hughes also stated concerns about the increasing numbers of children who identify as transgender being put on a course of medication and even surgery, and wrote "The trans-sex fantasy, the belief that a person can change his or her sex, either from male to female or from female to male, is spreading largely unquestioned among the political left."

In response, Annie Russell, URI's Director of the Gender and Sexuality Center, denounced Dr. Hughes and questioned whether someone with such opinions should be teaching in the classroom.  Fourteen faculty members signed an email to the administration stating "We condemn statements that dehumanize people who identify as LGBTQIA+". At least three petitions have been started demanding that Dr. Hughes be fired or "held to account" by URI. Most disturbingly, the University of Rhode Island released a statement reading in part:

  • "The University does not support statements and publications by Professor Donna Hughes that espouse anti-transgender perspectives...The University also recognizes that its faculty have the general right to “academic freedom” in their teaching and scholarship...A faculty member’s First Amendment and academic freedom rights are not boundless, however, and should be exercised responsibly with due regard for the faculty member’s other obligations.”

The right to free speech is essential to academic life. An open exchange of ideas must be permitted by all sides on even the most difficult issues, and academic faculty should never be intimidated from participating in this exchange by the demands of those who disagree or by university administrations seeking to placate those demands. People who advocate for women's sex-based rights or question any aspect of gender theory, in particular, are frequently silenced by organized bullying from those on the other side of the issue, and it is no coincidence that most of those being silenced are women.

There is no right to be protected from being offended by other people's views, and suggesting that there is sets a very dangerous precedent that can only lead to the censorship of speech.

We, the undersigned, request that the administration of the University of Rhode Island make a public statement of unequivocal support for Dr. Hughes and affirm her right to express her feminist views without fear of academic reprisal.

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