Sussex university professor embroiled in transgender rights row quits

29 October 2021, 11:23

University of Sussex professor Kathleen Stock has resigned.
University of Sussex professor Kathleen Stock has resigned. Picture: Alamy/Twitter

By Sophie Barnett

A professor at the centre of a row over her views on gender identity has resigned after she was accused of transphobia.

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Kathleen Stock, a professor of philosophy at the University of Sussex, is leaving the university after what she called "an absolutely horrible time" and "a very difficult few years".

Prof Stock recently published a book questioning the idea that gender identity is more "socially significant" than biological sex.

She rejects the claim that she or her work is transphobic.

However, an anonymous group, reportedly set up by students, launched a campaign to get Prof Stock sacked over her views on gender identification.

Posters calling for her to be fired were reportedly put up near the university's campus, and pictures were posted on social media demanding: "Stock Out".

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In January, hundreds of academics criticised the decision to make Prof Stock an OBE for services to higher education in the New Year Honours.

In the open letter, the philosophers condemned academics who use their status to "further gender oppression" and said they denounced "transphobia in all its forms".

The university's vice-chancellor, Prof Adam Tickell, defended his colleague and has called for an end to the abuse she has received.

He said the university has been "consistent and clear" that everyone in their community has the right to work and learn, "free from bullying and harassment of any kind, which has not been the case for Professor Stock".

Announcing her departure on Twitter, Prof Stock said: "This has been a very difficult few years, but the leadership's approach more recently has been admirable and decent.

"I hope that other institutions in similar situations can learn from this.

"Am particularly glad to see University emphasising that bullying and harassing anyone for their legally held beliefs is unacceptable in their workplace."

She added: "This has been an absolutely horrible time for me and my family. I'm putting it behind me now. On to brighter things soon, I hope."

Ex-Cop hits out at gender neutral uniforms

Earlier this month, Prof Stock accused a union branch of "effectively" ending her career after it called on the university to take a "strong stance" against transphobia.

In a statement, the Sussex branch of the University and College Union (UCU) said all trans and non-binary members "now more than ever should receive the unequivocal support" of the University of Sussex.

Following the news she has decided to resign, a number of people have shared their support for the professor.

Universities minister Michelle Donelan said on Twitter it was a "sad day for freedom of speech".

She said the "toxic environment" at the university has made it "untenable" for Prof Stock to maintain her position there.

"No academic should ever have to fear for their personal safety," she said.

"This only reinforces the need for our Free Speech Bill."

A University of Sussex spokesman said: "Over the past several weeks, the University of Sussex has vigorously and unequivocally defended Professor Kathleen Stock's right to exercise her academic freedom and lawful freedom of speech, free from bullying and harassment of any kind.

"These freedoms and protections apply to and benefit us all, and we will defend them today and in the future."

He added: "There were no substantive allegations of wrongdoing made against her.

"Professor Stock leaves the University of Sussex with our gratitude for her significant contributions as a teacher and academic."