Information regarding the proposed research seminar on Schools and Gender Diversity

Mae'r ymateb i'r cais hwn yn hwyr iawn. Yn ôl y gyfraith, ym mhob amgylchiad, dylai University of Edinburgh fod wedi ymateb erbyn hyn. (manylion). Gallwch gwyno drwy yn gofyn am adolygiad mewnol.

Dear University of Edinburgh,

Please provide copies of all information including, but not limited to, all correspondence, discussions, notes/minutes of meetings and telephone calls, emails and other information relating to the research seminar on Schools and Gender Diversity organised by Dr Shereen Benjamin which was due to have been held in December 2019, and the decision to cancel or postpone it, and any steps taken subsequently to reorganise or cancel it.

Please include all information relating to
- the period from the time the seminar was first proposed
- all communications of any kind internally with members of the university staff, students, managers and other internal groups
- all communications of any kind with external bodies and individuals and also a list of all individuals and organisations with whom any relevant communication occurred, and the dates of those communications

On 11 July 2021 I submitted a similar request, 'All communication relating to the proposed research seminar on Schools and Gender Diversity'. You refused to provide the information on the grounds that it was too expensive @£1,200 (IR2021/00435; FOI2021/00383). That reply also included a costed list of tasks that you would need to complete in order to reply to me.

In this instance, please carry out all the tasks in that list, with the exceptions of those in Paragraphs 8 (costed at £315.00) and 9 (costed at £300) to ensure that you are able to respond to this request within the cost limits.

I note also that you failed last time to reply within the statutory time limit, despite your final response being a refusal. You apologised for delay. I trust there will not be a further delay and that you will now respond timeously to this request.

Yours faithfully,

S Wainwright

Records Management, University of Edinburgh

We would like to acknowledge that we have received your email. The
University’s working arrangements are affected by the Coronavirus outbreak
but we will respond to your enquiry as soon as possible.

 

Information requests (freedom of information requests, environmental
information requests, data subject rights requests)

While we will make all efforts to respond to requests promptly, please be
aware that in some cases unfortunately we will not be able to respond
within statutory timescales. The [1]Scottish Information Commissioner’s
Office and the [2]Information Commissioner’s Office have both issued
statements about requests during the Covid-19 pandemic which you may find
helpful.

Please note that if you have only provided your first (or given) name in
the body of your email your request will not be valid.  To ensure your
request is valid and that the University is obliged to answer it, you must
provide your real name.  If you are making the request on behalf of
someone else you must provide their real name.  The Office of
the [3]Scottish Information Commissioner's guidance on this point explains
that if you do not provide your real name or the name of the person on
whose behalf you are making the request, you will lose your right to
appeal to the Commissioner should you be unhappy with the handling of your
request. The guidance also explains what constitutes a real name for the
purposes of making a request valid. Please refer to the guidance for
further details.

 

[4]The University of Edinburgh's request privacy notice, which describes
how we use the information you have supplied about yourself and your
request, is published on the University website.

 

The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in Scotland,
with registration number SC005336. Is e buidheann carthannais a th’ ann an
Oilthigh Dhùn Èideann, clàraichte an Alba, àireamh clàraidh SC005336.

References

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2. https://ico.org.uk/
3. http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/Law/F...
4. https://www.ed.ac.uk/records-management/...

Dear University of Edinburgh,
With apologies, I accidentally deleted a paragraph from this request. Please add:

In any case where it is necessary to withhold the names of an individual please provide information as to their organisation or group, and the position that individual holds within it, or state if your communication with them was in their personal capacity.

Yours faithfully,

S Wainwright

recordsmanagement@ed.ac.uk,

1 Atodiad

Dear S Wainwright

Thank you for your email of 4 September making a Freedom of Information
request.

To enable the University to provide the information you require, I am
writing to ask for a fee.

Please find our fee notice attached.

Yours sincerely

Rob Don

Records Management

Dear Mr Don,

I have now paid the amount of £48.50 in order to prevent any further delays to your providing the information about this seminar. I expect this to now be provided timeously as you have delayed for a considerable period already.

REQUEST TO REVIEW THE FEES CHARGED
Despite having paid, I believe the fee was requested merely to delay the provision of information, and/or in the hope that I would decline to pay. I therefore ask you to review the reasonableness of your demand.

I see that the guidance says where the cost of collecting the fee is greater than the fee itself, it should not normally be charged. Could you therefore also confirm the amount of time and the (actual, not notional) amount that this has/will cost the the various University departments in total .

Secondly, I note that in the event you over estimate the amount of time it will take to provide information you are required to return the amount overcharged. Therefore, if you are not willing to return the fee in full, please review the details of the charges, some of which are clearly over-estimates. For example, at Task 1 the RMCO will identify all the individuals who have to be contacted. At Task 2 the RMCO contacts those same individuals asking them to search for information etc. From the later tasks it is clear that there are approximately 10 individuals who this applies to. Yet you are charging for 4 hours work. It is inconceivable that a single email copied to 10 people will take 4 hours. There also appears to be a degree of overlap with Task 3.

I suspect when you look at the other items you will find similar instances of overcharging, but I will leave it to you to identify them at this stage.

REDACTIONS
I am concerned by the emphasis you continually put on the likely need to redact information. I acknowledge that in some (but not all) cases it may be necessary to redact the names of the individuals involved in the discussions. However the nature of the FOI is such that there is extremely unlikely to be any personal information divulged in the emails etc. Even if there was, the person's privacy should be adequately protected by the redaction of their name.
It is worrying that you might be looking for reasons to unnecessarily withhold information. I should like a reassurance that this will not happen. As I asked in the FOI, if a person's name is redacted please clarify whether the correspondence / discussion etc took place in their personal capacity or as a member of an organisation.
.
For clarification: If you redact the name of a member of the University staff please instead state which position they hold. Similarly, if it is a member of an outside organisation please make clear which organisation it was. otherwise the information could be meaningless.
Also in all cases, including if there is communication with a private individual, I would expect you to make the information available in a format that enables me to follow a trail of correspondence etc.

DATES FOR INFORMATION REQUESTED
You state that you have chosen the date of an earlier FOI as the end date for the information you will supply. This is an entirely separate FOI and there is nothing in it which allows you to designate that arbitrary cut off date. I deliberately did not put an end date in this FOI precisely because I anticipated that you would again engage in delaying tactics and I want ALL the information up to as late a date as possible - I presume discussions are ongoing as it appears that the issues concerning rearranging the seminar have still not been resolved.
I would like all relevant information up and including Monday 20 September 2021 .
If you continue to delay, I will ask that that date is changed to be no more than 10 days before your eventual response.

Yours sincerely,
S Wainwright

recordsmanagement@ed.ac.uk,

Dear S Wainwright

Thank you for your email of 18 September and for the fee of £48.50 which
you paid on the same day. In your email you asked us to process your
request and review the cost calculation we issued.

I am writing to confirm that your request is actively being progressed and
that we are making all efforts to respond to your request promptly. As
explained in our acknowledgement message, the University's working
arrangements are affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, I am
currently unable to tell you exactly when you will receive a response to
your request. The [1]Scottish Information Commissioner's Office has issued
a statement about requests during the Covid-19 pandemic which you may find
helpful.

The [2]University of Edinburgh's request privacy notice, which describes
how we use the information you have supplied about yourself and your
request, is published on the University website.

Yours sincerely

Sara Cranston

Records Management

References

Visible links
1. http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/home/...
2. https://www.ed.ac.uk/records-management/...

Dear [email address],
Please don't insult me by first using every delaying tactic in the book and then trying to pretend it's all out of your hands., so you'll reply goodness only knows when. I should point out that you were first asked for this information several months ago - on 11 July and you have used one tactic after another to avoid responding. You have had plenty of time to deal with it.
I therefore expect a reply within the statutory 20 working days of submitting this request, which was 4th September. I note the reply is due 1 October. Please ensure the information is finally with me no later than then.

And as I have already said, please also ensure that you do not redact names or information unnecessarily, nor in a manner which makes it impossible follow an email discussion.

Yours sincerely,

S Wainwright

Records Management, University of Edinburgh

Dear S Wainwright
 
Thank you for your email.
 
When a fee notice has been issued, the time period stops for the purpose
of calculating the 20 working day timescale to respond to a request. The
time period starts again on the day the fee notice has been paid. This is
explained in point 31 of the [1]Scottish Information Commissioner's
guidance on charging a fee.
 
Accordingly, for your request of 4 September, the relevant period was
paused between 6 September (when the University issued a fee notice), and
18 September (when you paid the fee notice). This means the statutory
timescale for response to your request for information is the 13 October.
 
You also asked us to review our use of the cost calculation in your email
of 18 September. The statutory timescale for response to your review
request is by the 15 October.
 
We are currently working on your request and review request and hope to be
able to respond within the statutory timescales. However as explained in
our acknowledgement the University's working arrangements have been
impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and this has impacted our ability to
respond to requests on time. I will update you by the 13 October if there
will be any delay and provide an approximate timescale for you.
 
I acknowledge your frustration at the delay to reply to your previous
request from 11 July. The University apologises for the delay. Our review
response letter of 3 September explained how to appeal to the Scottish
Information Commissioner if you are dissatisfied with our response to that
request.
 
Yours sincerely
 
Sara Cranston
 
 
The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in Scotland,
with registration number SC005336. Is e buidheann carthannais a th’ ann an
Oilthigh Dhùn Èideann, clàraichte an Alba, àireamh clàraidh SC005336.

References

Visible links
1. https://www.itspublicknowledge.info/Law/...

Dear Ms Cranston,

I accept you may pause the clock whilst waiting for my payment. However, you have misstated the date on which the fee notice was issued, which was 8th, not 6th September. This means there should only be 10 days added to the time frame. I therefore expect a complete reply by 11 October.

Thank you for the information about the right of appeal to the Information Commissioner. I will review my options once I see your response.

Yours sincerely,

S Wainwright

Records Management, University of Edinburgh

We would like to acknowledge that we have received your email. The
University’s working arrangements have been affected by the Coronavirus
outbreak but we will respond to your enquiry as soon as possible.

 

Information requests (freedom of information requests, environmental
information requests, data subject rights requests)

While we will make all efforts to respond to requests promptly, please be
aware that in some cases unfortunately we will not be able to respond
within statutory timescales.

Please note that if you have only provided your first (or given) name in
the body of your email your request will not be valid.  To ensure your
request is valid and that the University is obliged to answer it, you must
provide your real name.  If you are making the request on behalf of
someone else you must provide their real name.  The Office of
the [1]Scottish Information Commissioner's guidance on this point explains
that if you do not provide your real name or the name of the person on
whose behalf you are making the request, you will lose your right to
appeal to the Commissioner should you be unhappy with the handling of your
request. The guidance also explains what constitutes a real name for the
purposes of making a request valid. Please refer to the guidance for
further details.

 

[2]The University of Edinburgh's request privacy notice, which describes
how we use the information you have supplied about yourself and your
request, is published on the University website.

The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in Scotland,
with registration number SC005336. Is e buidheann carthannais a th’ ann an
Oilthigh Dhùn Èideann, clàraichte an Alba, àireamh clàraidh SC005336.

References

Visible links
1. http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/Law/F...
2. https://www.ed.ac.uk/records-management/...

CRANSTON Sara, University of Edinburgh

Dear S Wainwright

Apologies for my error and the resulting confusion, it was the 8 September that we issued a fee notice. However the 4 September and the 5 September were a Saturday and Sunday, so not working days. Therefore the statutory deadline is 13 October.

Yours sincerely
Sara Cranston

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

recordsmanagement@ed.ac.uk,

1 Atodiad

Dear S Wainwright

Thank you for your email of 18 September requesting an internal review of
our handling of your information request. Please find the University's
response to the review attached.

Yours sincerely

Sara Cranston

Records Management Section
University of Edinburgh
Old College
South Bridge
Edinburgh
EH8 9YL

[1]https://www.ed.ac.uk/records-management

References

Visible links
1. file:///tmp/Records Management Section University of Edinburgh Old College South Bridge Edinburgh EH8 9YL https:/www.ed.ac.uk/records-management

Dear Ms Cranston
I'm afraid your reply has merely added further confusion to the date on which your response to my request is due. You mention that the 4th and 5th of September were not working days. They are entirely irrelevant to the timescale in question, since your request for payment was not issued until after those dates so they do not enter into the calculation of the extension.

When I first submitted my request the deadline for reply was 1 October. There was a a hiatus in the timeframe between the date you issued the request and the date on which I paid it. The period between 8 September and 18 September covers 7 working days (ie, excluding 11 and 12 which are the weekend which fell between those dates.) Therefore it would be fair to add no more than 7 working days to the due date which, calculated by that method, arrives at 12 October.

However, this is all academic, since you have refused to respond within any of these time scales. You have now had several months to consider this, given the date of my first request. You have used tactic after tactic to delay.

Your 'explanation' for the latest delay is that you intend to redact what sounds like considerable quantities of information. There is absolutely nothing in the subject matter of my request that would provide any personal information about anybody involved, other than their names. In some cases I would expect the names to be included in what you give me. In a small number of cases, (such as correspondence from the general public for example) I understand that individual names should be redacted. As I have already indicated, I should like you to ensure that in the case of names being redacted you provide sufficient information to identify whether the individuals are members of staff including relevant information such as their school / department and position, or which external organisation they are members of, or if they are members of the public. And for that to be provided in a way which makes it easy to follow the email trails.

I can see no reason why this should be a particularly long or time consuming business, nor why you are unable to provide the information within the legally mandated timeframe. I will robustly challenge any redactions that appear excessive or unnecessary. I hope this will not be necessary.

Regards
S Wainwright

Dear CRANSTON Sara,
You promised me answers by the end of October. This is the last working day. I therefore expect them by the end of the day.

Yours sincerely,

S Wainwright

Records Management, University of Edinburgh

Dear S Wainwright

I apologise we have not been able to respond today as we hoped. It is taking longer than anticipated to process the volume of information retrieved and some third parties are not available.
Before disclosing substantive third party information it is our practice to seek the views of the third party concerned and to take these views into account before releasing the information.
I appreciate this will be frustrating for you, and apologise for this. We are aiming to respond during November.

Yours sincerely
Records Management Section

The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in Scotland, with registration number SC005336. Is e buidheann carthannais a th’ ann an Oilthigh Dhùn Èideann, clàraichte an Alba, àireamh clàraidh SC005336.

Dear Records Management,
Your excuses get thinner by the day. You have now had some 4 months since my initial request, to which you have created barrier after barrier. It is a perfectly simple series of emails on a single topic. It should not be beyond the wit of even Edinburgh University to pull them together and report back to me.
There are, I am sure only a small number of named individuals in the trail. I simply do not believe that it can take this long to check things out with them. In particular because nothing I have asked for touches in any way on personal information. It is merely a query about the university's possibly illegal policy of shutting down academic debate. As I have already indicated, I will robustly object to any redactions unless there is a very clear case that an innocent individual would be compromised. So you can save both yourselves and me a great deal of time and trouble by not unnecessarily redacting information, which is apparently the only reason for these ongoing delays.

As you have not met your own extremely and unreasonably extended deadline, I must now insist that you provide ALL the information (not partial) no later than next Friday 5 November.
After that I will be writing to the Information Commissioner.

The University will not get away with refusing to answer my perfectly legal query, so you might as well process it now. Moreover you had the cheek to demand payment from me - which apparently you have not done in any other case in the last 2 years (!). As a paying customer I have not even received the most cursory of service.

Your conduct in creating these ongoing delays is an absolute disgrace. And only makes me yet more determined to ensure that there is full disclosure.
S Wainwright

Records Management, University of Edinburgh

Dear S Wainwright

Thank you for your email of 29 October concerning the delay to our
response to your information request of 4 September. As you have expressed
dissatisfaction with the delay to our response to your request, I am
interpreting this as a request for internal review. 

 

Unless we hear from you otherwise, we will conduct an internal review on
the basis that we did not respond to your request within the statutory
timeframe.

 

Please be aware that the legislation only allows requesters to make one
internal review request in relation to a request. If you are dissatisfied
later with the content of the response to your request for information,
and you have already made an internal review request, your next step will
be to appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner.

Unfortunately it will not be possible to provide information to you by the
5 November. It is more likely it will be towards the end of the month. We
will explain more about the complexities of the information involved when
we respond.

If you remain dissatisfied with our decision to charge you a fee, our
review response letter of 11 October explained how to appeal that decision
to the Scottish Information Commissioner. As I advised on 30 September if
you remain unhappy about our response to your request from 11 July, our
review response letter of 3 September explained how to appeal the handling
of that request to the Scottish Information Commissioner.

Yours sincerely

Records Management

The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in Scotland,
with registration number SC005336. Is e buidheann carthannais a th’ ann an
Oilthigh Dhùn Èideann, clàraichte an Alba, àireamh clàraidh SC005336.

Dear Records Management,
Nice try. But please note I did NOT ask for an internal review, and nothing in what I said indicated otherwise. This is the second time you have tried to 'interpret' something in a way which suits you but which bears little relation to what I wrote.
I strongly suspect I will have much better reasons to request a review when you finally produce the information and I will not have you remove that right be 'interpreting' a request for a response as a request for a review.

There is in any case, nothing to review at present. You have already announced that you will not meet the statutory timescale, that you will not meet the alternative timescale that you offered, and have now made it clear that you will continue to add arbitrary amounts of time to the date when you will provide the information.
I repeat, there is nothing in this to review.

You make me a promise, which you break, I request you keep your word - this is an iterative cycle that will go on into the next millennium at the current rate of progress - and I will continue to ask you to provide the information I am legally entitled to. Your statement that I am only entitled to ask for a single review contains an implied threat that you will not respond to me in future. I hope I have misunderstood.

What you would be better spending your time on, is replying to my perfectly simple, straightforward request for information relating to a planned seminar that was postponed due to threats of violence by individuals involved in the university against whom you took no action, and which, since then, you have refused (possibly illegally) to rearrange. The processes I wish to know about are - or should be quite simple. Who said what to whom and when, which led to the effective cancellation of this legal and important event.
It's just emails. Nothing else. You have had them at your disposal for weeks now. I suggest you deal properly with my request now, rather than wasting more time carrying out a meaningless review which I do not want.

Please confirm that you have understood that I have not requested a review and that you will not subsequently claim to have carried one out.

S Wainwright

Dear Records Management,
Firstly I note that you have not replied to my letter of 4 November, despite my explicitly asking you to acknowledge that you were not treating any my previous request for a response as a request for a review.

Secondly, in your last response to me you stated that it would be towards the end of this month before you give me the information. I note that it is now towards the end of the month, so could you please send the extremely overdue information to me immediately.

Thirdly, that response also stated "We will explain more about the complexities of the information involved when we respond." Regardless of when you propose to let me have the information, I would like that explanation immediately please. It might help me understand exactly why you are taking so long about it. As you are now many months overdue with your response, the least you can do is give me the courtesy of a full explanation. You have already expressed your willingness to provide this, and there is no reasonable need to wait until the end of the process.

Lastly, but most importantly, I gather from what you have repeatedly said, and in the absence of any alternative explanation, that the delay is due to you redacting the information I requested. As I have told you many times already, I want ALL the information relating to the seminar and its cancellation. Your ongoing refusal to provide the information leads me to several conclusions.:
- You hope I will give up and go away. I won't. Indeed, your behaviour has made me all the more determined to get to the bottom of things as it appears you must have a great deal more to hide than I had initially imagined.

- This reinforces my impression that the way you acted may be potentially illegal. The cancellation of the seminar certainly has a great number of similarities to Professor Jo Phoenix's treatment by the University of Essex which, as the Reindorf Review makes clear, was illegal. I will not accept (and you should not expect me to accept) any redactions that attempt to hide any potentially illegal, or immoral, unjustified, discriminatory or unprofessional behaviour by the University or its staff, students, contractors or other influencers.

- I should remind you that my original request asked for ALL information relating to the research seminar, and specifically included 'all communications of any kind' with both internal and external individuals, groups or organisations. By ALL let me reiterate that I meant ALL, not some portion that you deem fit to release. For the avoidance of doubt, I require sight of ALL communication relating to the holding of the seminar, whatever aspect of that was being considered. I will not accept a partial picture of what went on, nor a partial disclosure of what was discussed in the correspondence.

I can only guess from your ongoing reluctance to respond to the FOI, that you are trying to hide the truth of what happened - which to fully understand of course requires the entirety of the information. We all know that the seminar was not cancelled for academic or intellectual reasons, but because of the insistence of gender ideologues on the campus (and possibly beyond) that certain views and people should not be platformed. I am mindful of the assault on a speaker at a previous event which was similarly opposed by the same constituency, as a demonstration of the truth of this.

Given your continued stonewalling, I can only conclude that (as I had originally hoped) the information shines a light on crucial questions such as the attitude of different players, especially those who might have been responsible for pressurising or influencing the university to cancel the event, or for creating an atmosphere in which it would be unsafe or unpleasant for the event to go ahead. I am starting to suspect that it further demonstrates the extent of ideological capture within the university hierarchy. Whilst I can fully understand the university's desire to hide this in order to protect individuals and the university from criticism, it is, of course, those very aspects which I am most interested in and which were behind my FOI. I want to know exactly what those various pressures and influences etc were, where and who they came from, how the university dealt with them, what the effect of them was, what steps the university took to deal with them including the threats of violence or other disruption, and at what level the decisions were taken and endorsed.

As I have previously said, I will robustly challenge any redactions including those which appear designed to hide the wider truth behind this sorry debacle. Meantime, you might wish to consider just how much you are spending in order to hide salient facts from view, and whether this is really a proper use of public funds.

I hope you will now see fit to release the requested information in full.
S Wainwright

Records Management, University of Edinburgh

We would like to acknowledge that we have received your email.

 

Information requests (freedom of information requests, environmental
information requests, data subject rights requests)

We will make all efforts to respond to requests promptly, and within
statutory timescales.

Please note that if you have only provided your first (or given) name in
the body of your email your request will not be valid.  To ensure your
request is valid and that the University is obliged to answer it, you must
provide your real name.  If you are making the request on behalf of
someone else you must provide their real name.  The Office of
the [1]Scottish Information Commissioner's guidance on this point explains
that if you do not provide your real name or the name of the person on
whose behalf you are making the request, you will lose your right to
appeal to the Commissioner should you be unhappy with the handling of your
request. The guidance also explains what constitutes a real name for the
purposes of making a request valid. Please refer to the guidance for
further details.

 

[2]The University of Edinburgh's request privacy notice, which describes
how we use the information you have supplied about yourself and your
request, is published on the University website.

The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in Scotland,
with registration number SC005336. Is e buidheann carthannais a th’ ann an
Oilthigh Dhùn Èideann, clàraichte an Alba, àireamh clàraidh SC005336.

References

Visible links
1. http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/Law/F...
2. https://www.ed.ac.uk/records-management/...