Kathleen Stock: UCU statement ‘ends my career’ at Sussex

Union calls for university management to take a ‘clear and strong stance against transphobia’

October 12, 2021
Modern architecture (1961) University of Sussex in Falmer, use of red brick and concrete
Source: iStock

The Sussex philosopher at the centre of a storm over her views on gender identification has said a statement from her local union branch will “end her career” at the institution.

Kathleen Stock, a professor of philosophy at the University of Sussex, tweeted that the institution’s branch of the University and College Union “has just effectively ended my career at Sussex University”, alongside a copy of a statement sent out to branch members.

It comes after Professor Stock told The Sunday Times that she had been advised by police to stay off campus and to install CCTV outside her home after a group of students put up posters around campus calling for the gender-critical feminist to be fired and a group of protesters at the university called for the same.

Professor Stock has been accused of transphobia for her insistence that an individual cannot change their biological sex, a claim she rejects.

Vice-chancellor Adam Tickell said the university was “investigating activity on our campus which appears to have been designed to attack Professor Kathleen Stock for exercising her academic freedoms”.

“Disturbingly, this has included pressuring the university to terminate her employment. Everyone at the university has the right to be free from harassment and intimidation.”

In response, the Sussex UCU branch put out a “statement in support of trans and nonbinary communities at Sussex” and said that in “light of recent events” the branch urged management “to take a clear and strong stance against transphobia at Sussex”. 

According to the statement, “public discourses regularly devalue the lives of trans and nonbinary people, and appeals to both employment rights and academic freedom are often instrumentalised in this context…We do not endorse the call for any worker to be summarily sacked and we oppose all forms of bullying, harassment, and intimidation of staff and students. There should be no contradiction between defending academic freedom and supporting trans rights.”

Sussex UCU called for an “urgent investigation into the ways in which institutional transphobia operates at our university and diminishes the democratic rights and freedoms of some of its most vulnerable members”.

Meanwhile, a group of UK philosophers has published an open letter to express “solidarity with, and support of, the University of Sussex in its defence of academic freedom in light of the recent harassment campaign”.

“While not all of us agree with Professor Stock’s views, we are convinced of the importance of making space within universities and within public life for respectful debate and discussion, particularly in relation to pressing issues of public policy,” the academics write.

The University of Sussex said that it had “acted – and will continue to act – firmly and promptly to tackle bullying and harassment, to defend the fundamental principle of academic freedom, to support our community and continue to progress our work on equality, diversity and inclusion”.

“As a community, we need to come together and talk about what is happening at the moment and to look at the way forward. We will be doing this in the coming weeks and this will be led by our newly appointed pro vice-chancellor for culture, equality and inclusion.”

anna.mckie@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (1)

It is a central social function of philosophy to identify and evaluate the assumptions ("presuppositions", "first principles") at work in society and lying behind social movements. Kathleen Stock is doing her job as a philosopher, at least in this respect, in identifying the idea of sex/gender as a mere nominal rather than real essence as a first principle of "transgenderism" (or whatever you want to call it).

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