Fellows divided over don who breached last bastion

Fellows at Cambridge University's only remaining all-women college yesterday spoke out in favour of Dr Rachel Padman, a trans-sexual woman don, staying at the college.

They felt strongly that Dr Padman, 43, a physicist specialising in star formation, who was appointed a fellow of Newnham College last autumn, should not be removed as a fellow or forced to resign because of her past - despite the fact that legally she is still a man.

Ruth Murrell-Laguado, a pharmacologist, said she had no problem with "someone who was born a man being allowed to be a fellow at Newnham". And she added: "My general feeling is that people who have gone through a sex change have faced a difficult enough decision to make that change and I am prepared to accept them as the sex they want to be."

Her views were backed by Honorary Fellow Professor Phyllis Deane, who said: "I am not a lawyer, so I don't know about the legal position. But I don't have a problem with it at all. If she arrived as a woman having had the appropriate sex change, I don't see why we should worry about it."

Meanwhile, the feminist academic, Germaine Greer, who is a member of the college's governing body, is horrified at the decision to admit Dr Padman as a Fellow of the college because the statutes insist that all fellows must be women. She is considering calling an emergency meeting of the governing body to discuss the controversy. Only Newnham's principal, Dr Onora O'Neil, knew that Dr Padman had undergone a sex-change operation to become a woman in 1982. Dr Greer and other fellows had had no idea of Dr Padman's history. "We have driven a coach and horses through our statutes and I can't believe we did it," she said. "It's disgraceful that Dr Padman has been placed in this situation. I makes me very angry."

Dr Padman, like Dr Greer born in Australia, is said to have considered resigning if "a significant number of women" at the college were unhappy with her position, but did not want to lose "something I love".

One way Newnham could solve the problem would be by voting to admit men as fellows - the move was rejected by a small majority in 1990 - but Dr Padman said she preferred to keep the college single-sex. "It is an exhilarating feeling being surrounded by clever and intelligent women," she said.

Clare Garner

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
News
Tottenham legend Jimmy Greaves has defended fans use of the word 'Yid'
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West, performing in New York last week, has been the subject of controversy as rock's traditional headline slot at Glastonbury is lost once again
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living