PM-backed Kathleen Stock talk goes ahead despite protests

Philosopher tells Oxford Union people must realise ‘the world does not end’ when you have disagreements

May 30, 2023
Oxford skyline
Source: iStock

Kathleen Stock said some universities were becoming “propaganda machines” for a particular point of view as she spoke at the Oxford Union despite a trans rights protester gluing themselves to the floor.

Widespread protests greeted the philosopher as she arrived in Oxford for the talk, the culmination of weeks’ worth of debate over whether her gender-critical views should be no platformed by the famous debating society.

Despite having to be escorted by security guards, Professor Stock said the presence of hundreds of protesters outside the union “wasn’t traumatic” for her but she was more concerned by protesters infiltrating institutions and those institutions then becoming “propaganda machines for a particular point of view”, The Telegraph reported.

She said that this was happening at certain universities and that it would “take courage” for people to realise that “the world does not end” when you have disagreements.

Ten minutes into the talk, a protester wearing a T-shirt with the words “no more dead trans kids” written on it disrupted proceedings and said they had glued themselves to the floor.

A student, Riz Possnett, later claimed responsibility for the stunt. In a statement posted on Twitter, they said: “I respect Kathleen’s right to free speech, but I’m also painfully aware of the consequences of her anti-trans propaganda. Her career and image is built around misinformation and fear-mongering.

“The consequences of Stock’s message and the broader media hate campaign are extensive. Trans people in the UK are stigmatised, threatened, and harassed. Life-saving gender-affirming healthcare is near impossible to access, and the process is consistently degrading.”

The statement alleged that an organiser of the protests against Professor Stock had received a death threat in the post and added “trans lives and rights should not be up for ‘debate’”.

“Kathleen Stock is not welcome here. TERFs [trans exclusionary radical feminists] are not welcome here. We will resist hatred, and we will fight for trans rights,” the statement said.

The Oxford LGBTQ+ society organised panel discussions and a march ahead of the event in what it said was an attempt to “launch a new positive legacy” to counter the “wider attack on the trans community in and beyond Oxford”.

The talk had previously been condemned by several student groups affiliated to the Oxford colleges and the students’ union, which has since severed ties with the Oxford Union. About 100 academics signed an open letter earlier this week in support of the student campaign, countering an earlier letter signed by 44 scholars that called for Professor Stock to be allowed to speak.

Professor Stock – who left her position at the University of Sussex after facing similar protests – had earlier been backed by the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, who tweeted that “students should be allowed to hear and debate her views. We mustn’t allow a small but vocal few to shut down discussion.”

Mr Sunak’s government recently passed a free speech bill that mandates universities and students’ unions to promote free speech and academic freedom.

Register to continue

Why register?

  • Registration is free and only takes a moment
  • Once registered, you can read 3 articles a month
  • Sign up for our newsletter
Please Login or Register to read this article.

Related articles

Reader's comments (2)

I wonder if her conclusions are based on Saul Kripke's realism about natural kinds and essences.
I am glad to hear that you discuss gender critical views with your students. Good for you. However, you cannot possibly think there is no problem in academia. While 44 academics at Oxford supported Professor Stock’s right to speak, over 100 academics then signed a letter saying the opposite. Even a handful of “academics” thinking that the notion that women are defined by their sex cannot be stated on campus is evidence that academia has been partly colonised by a loud and irrational religious cult.


Featured jobs