'Nobody should be bullied at their job': trans activist defends Sussex professor

9 October 2021, 12:29 | Updated: 9 October 2021, 12:39

By Seán Hickey

This campaigner condemns the abuse aimed at a university lecturer following calls for them to be fired for alleged transphobic comments.

The Vice Chancellor of the University of Sussex Adam Tickell backed Professor Kathleen Stock's right to free speech following calls for her to be fired for alleged transphobia.

Students at the university launched a campaign to have the professor of philosophy's contract terminated after views expressed in a book related to gender identity and biological sex.

Despite campaigns from students and online critics, the university stood by Professor Stock and defended her right to free speech as an academic and expressed no intention to terminate her contract.

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Vice Chancellor Tickell told BBC Radio 4 "It's absolutely clear that all our staff have an untrammelled right to say and believe what they think, so we take it very seriously if people try to prevent that right from being exercised".

"I'm really concerned that we have masked protesters putting up posters calling for the sacking of somebody for exercising her right to articulate her views."

"Nobody should be bullied out of their job," trans activist Jenny-Anne Bishop OBE told LBC in response to the campaign.

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She argued however that "if you say things that make people think they're not valid or they're unsafe it's very difficult then for those people to come to your lectures", and thus could understand some of the opposition to Professor Stock's views.

"Not offending people is not something a professor should have to worry about to the point that the police have been called in because she's come under some unspecified threat." Andrew Castle responded amid news that online vitriol had left the professor fearing for her safety.

The chair of the Unique Transgender Network admitted that "we can all learn from opposite opinion" but "when those opinions are made in a way that really makes people upset" then questions should be asked.

"It's really good to have arguments but you have to understand what your words will do," she insisted.

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Andrew then argued that Professor stock is "extremely highly qualified", and so her views should be respected. "She's not an expert in biology" Ms Bishop replied.

"Nature is extremely diverse."

Andrew reiterated his opposition to the vitriol aimed at Professor Stock for her views: "Just because you don't have somebody agree with what you say, and you don't just have reflected back at you what you agree with, doesn't give you the right to threaten someone."

"I agree entirely." Ms Bishop added. "Nobody should be threatened in the way Professor Stock's been threatened."

Professor Kathleen Stock issued a statement on Twitter following the University of Sussex's expression of support.

"Couldn't begin to adequately thank the hundreds of people who have helped or encouraged me in the last few days so I won't try here, except to say you have my undying gratitude, and I certainly now know who my friends are. I'd also like to thank outgoing Sussex VC Adam Tickell/

"[F]or standing up for my academic freedom just now on the Today programme. Universities aren't places where students should just expect to hear their own thoughts reflected back at them. Arguments should be met by arguments and evidence by evidence, not intimidation or aggression/

"Finally, hello to new followers. If you expected to find transgressive culture warrior with outrageous takes, am afraid I'm extremely boring and vanilla, and its sign of toxicity of times that I'm considered remotely dangerous. My book Material Girls is best summation of my views[.]"