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Prof. Sam Winter
Hong Kong University Vice-Chancellor: Save transgender research at HKU. Employ Sam Winter beyond 60

in HONG KONG, 19/04/2012

For twelve years Associate Professor Sam Winter of the University of Hong Kong (HKU) has been working in rights and health for transgender people. There are transphobic people at HKU , as anywhere else. So his work in this area has benefited from the fact that he had ‘tenure to 60’ (that is, security of employment until 60).

Sam’s work now faces the axe. Why? He is approaching 60 and A KEY COMMITTEE HAS DECIDED THAT IT WOULD NOT BE IN HKU’S BEST INTERESTS FOR SAM TO BE ALLOWED TO CONTINUE HIS RESEARCH AND WRITING, AS WELL AS SERVICE BEYOND THE CAMPUS, AS A FULL-TIME STAFF MEMBER OF HKU.

So what has Sam’s work involved? Well, he has been active working for enhanced rights and health for transgender people in the Asia-Pacific region and worldwide. He has been a vocal advocate for diagnostic reform in transgender health, arguing that the current psychiatric diagnoses applied to transgender people are inappropriate, and undermine their health and rights. He has written widely on trans issues; in journals in health, psychology, law and history. He has written chapters for books and encyclopedias for the general reader. He was recently commissioned by the Lancet, a leading medical journal worldwide, to lead a team writing the initial article in a short series on transgender health. He teaches on trans issues, and his courses on this subject are among the most popular and best evaluated courses across the whole campus.

Sam is a member (and in some cases has helped set up) a range of groups in Hong Kong and across the region working for transgender health and rights. He has recently written a report for UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) on factors influencing HIV risks among transgender people (report due out in next few weeks). He is a Board member of WPATH (the World Professional Association for Transgender Health); the only Board member from Asia. He has been appointed to a key WHO Geneva Working Group on diagnostic reform in the area of sexual health and disorders.

All this work is due to come to an end if he is removed from HKU.

Does anyone get to work at HKU beyond 60? Yes. Lots. For a start the Vice Chancellor is above 60. And many associate professors like me continue employment beyond 60 too. The overriding consideration -- the consideration that prevails over all others -- is whether it is in the UNIVERSITY’S BEST INTERESTS to continue to employ the person concerned.

So what is the problem with continuing to employ Sam Winter?

Well, it can’t be his work performance. Independent reviewers recently rated his work in the three key areas of teaching, research and service as excellent, excellent and excellent. And his courses are popular, with even more demand from students likely from next year. He is well regarded by colleagues and students. Over 230 students wrote to the Vice Chancellor voicing support for his case.

It certainly is not that HKU needs to cut staff. His faculty is planning to hire a whole load of new people next year. And it can’t be that Sam’s health is bad. So far it is great. So what is the problem?

IT IS HARD TO ESCAPE ONE CONCLUSION – THAT THE PROBLEM IS THE AREA OF WORK SAM WORKS IN – RESEARCH AND ADVOCACY FOR THE RIGHTS AND HEALTH OF TRANSGENDER PEOPLE.

There are very few scholars working in this area in Asia. After Sam is removed there will be no one working exclusively in this area in HK. So please help save Asia-Pacific transgender health and rights research and advocacy at HKU. Sign the petition now. And if you like write to the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tsui Lap –Chee today at tsuilc@hku.hk.Click 'petition letter' to see sample. 

More on Sam Winter’s work : http://web.hku.hk/~sjwinter/general/

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