St Andrews under fire for axing only female gender studies professor
St Andrews University comes under fire after axing only female gender studies professor and replacing her with two men
- Dr Alison Kerr helped set up St Andrews University’s Institute for Gender Studies
- But bosses have chosen not to renew her fixed-term contract after two years
- Thousands of students and academics have signed petition for Dr Kerr to keep her job
A university has sparked a global row after axing the only female professor on a gender studies course.
More than 1,000 students and academics have signed a petition condemning the decision by St Andrews not to renew their contract with Dr Alison Kerr.
They say Dr Kerr, an American philosopher, had a crucial role in setting up the institute in 2018 and has led its postgraduate masters course.
But having been employed on a fixed-term contract, Dr Kerr’s hope of being made a permanent staff member were dashed when she was told her employment would come to an end in June.
More than 1,000 students and academics have signed a petition condemning the decision by St Andrews not to renew their contract with Dr Alison Kerr
It has been reported that the course will now be taught by two men who, critics say, do not have a background in the subject.
The move has sparked anger among students and several high-profile gender studies academics, with some launching a campaign called StAndwithAlison.
More than 1,000 students and experts have also signed a petition condemning the decision.
Among the signatories, Elinor Mason, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said: ‘I want to stress how valuable this programme is, and what a shame it would be to squander all the work that Kerr has put into it.’
Andrea Peto, from Central European University in Budapest, said: ‘Gender studies is under attack globally. Very sad that this is also happening at University of St Andrews. Maybe it is not too late to change this decision.’
Professor Kirstein Rummery, from the University of Stirling, said: ‘At a time when gender studies and interdisciplinary feminist scholarship are badly needed, growing in popularity and under epistemic attack, this seems a questionable decision from a prestigious institution that should be leading the way.’
A spokesman for the university did not discuss the specifics of Kerr’s case, which is subject to an appeals process, but he said: ‘We are aware of various communications circulating about this case, including an open letter.
The move has sparked anger among students and several high-profile gender studies academics, with some launching a campaign called StAndwithAlison. Pictured: St Andrews
‘There are several fundamental misrepresentations in these communications. The impression given is both misleading and unfairly damaging to the university and to other respected academic members of staff.
‘The MLitt was never set up to be operated by a single person. The longterm plan was always that a cohort of suitably qualified individuals would teach and direct the programme.’
He added: ‘The colleagues teaching on and directing the MLitt programme currently are suitably qualified to do so, and have taken over at extremely short notice.’
They added that the MLitt in Gender Studies course Dr Kerr taught is ‘in very good hands and is continuing, with contributions and support from excellent, highly-qualified staff’.
In a statement Kerr said: ‘The decision by the university to end my contract and put the entire gender studies programming at risk is a slap in the face for all of us who took them seriously when they promised to promote diversity among staff and the curriculum they deliver.’
Kerr added: ‘I perceived St Andrews as a safe place for gender studies students and research on gender.
‘In talking with various colleagues who work on gender studies around the world I am reminded of the threat that keeps rising for research in this area, despite the fact that it is a field that clearly yields substantial income. This type of exploitation has struck a nerve with many.’
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