Escalating online harassment of York staff and students
To: Dr David Duncan <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Dr Adrian Lee <email@example.com>, Ben Leatham <firstname.lastname@example.org>, GSA President <email@example.com>, YUSU Welfare Officer <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Nouse Editor <email@example.com>, GSA Welfare Officer <firstname.lastname@example.org>, York UCU President <email@example.com>, Prof Koen Lamberts, Vice Chancellor <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Joan Concannon, Director of External Relations <email@example.com>
We are writing as organisers of the open letter against the University of York’s celebration of International Men’s Day. We have been dismayed by the university’s handling of this situation, particularly the retraction, which misrepresented the content of the original statement. We are concerned that the wording of the retraction has put many signatories at risk from supposed ‘men’s rights activists’.
We have been contacted by a number of the signatories, and others who have spoken in support of the letter on Twitter, about harassment, of varying degrees of severity, which they have received since the retraction was issued. Some have been receiving targeted attacks, to their Twitter pages but also to their university email accounts, described by some as containing content akin to ‘hate-mail’. Many have been receiving unexpected hits to their academia.edu pages, and are concerned about what may follow. In a particularly concerning development, [name redacted due to harassment concerns] tweeted yesterday afternoon that some York women had received rape and death threats.
Most of us have now locked our own Twitter accounts, starting from soon after the university put out its second apology. We received hostile and in some cases threatening comments after the apology began to circulate, and could see that this would only intensify. Like many students and staff at York and other universities, we use Twitter for academic discussion and networking. In some cases, using Twitter is a requirement of our jobs. We, and those who have contacted us, do not like being forced to hide for our own safety.
We are concerned about risks to friends, colleagues, and our students, and would like to know what advice the university is giving to those currently affected by harassment and threats. We believe that – as a matter of urgency – the university needs to put out an official statement detailing available advice and services for those targeted, as part of its duty of care towards its own staff and students.
We look forward to your response.