The University of Birmingham has formally apologised for conducting the dangerous and discredited practise known as conversion therapy.
The formal apology, which vice-chancellor Adam Tickell made followed the release of a recent report which looked into the University’s history of conversion therapy, which had been conducted as late as the 1980s.
“We understand that many of our staff and students will be distressed and angered to learn of the findings of the research into these practices, where the aim is to change a person’s sexual orientation or to suppress gender identity,” Tickell said.
“Today, I formally acknowledge and apologise for the University’s role in the historical research and practises detailed in this report and the harm that they caused. I would like to commend the bravery of those from the LGBTQ+ community who have spoken out about their own experience of these practices.”
“We understand the impact that conversion therapy has on individuals and unreservedly condemn this practice. We are unequivocal that conversion therapy is unethical, degrading, and harmful,” Tickell added.
According to the report, two psychologists, Dr Maurice Philip Feldman and Dr Malcolm J MacCulloch, worked at the University’s Institute for Child Health in the Department for Paediatrics and Child Health between the years of 1966 and 1983.
The pair had conducted research into “anticipatory avoidance” (AA) therapy to “cure” homosexuality.
The supposed treatment included placing a patient in a chair and connecting them to bands that would inflict electric shocks to the person when looking at an image of a person of the same sex.
Patients were also allowed to avoid a shock if they quickly skipped the image of a person of the same sex. However, researchers noted that “any sense of control patients may have had was broken by the researchers, who would shock at random, based on extant conditioning principles, in the belief that this would encourage the retention of heterosexual behaviour.”
The research also uncovered a total of 13 publications from Feldman and MacCulloch that detailed the so-called “therapy” and treating homosexuality.
Feldman was also discovered to have worked with the endocrinology department at the University of Birmingham’s medical school, researching “ideas about the physical build of gay men being indicative of hormone delivery in the womb; the theory was that injecting oestrogen into gay men would see a biological ‘female pattern of response’.”
Following the publishing of the report, researchers recommended that along with acknowledging and apologising for the University’s history of conversion therapy, the University should “develop a stated policy to provide access and material support to further academic enquiries into this history” and should actively support efforts to ban conversion therapy comprehensively in the UK.