British academics are raising their voices against cancel culture that has taken root across British colleges and universities following Prof. Kathleen Stock’s decision to resign from Sussex University after she faced an endless barrage of harassment from pro-transgender campaigners.
On Thursday night, the expert on analytic philosophy at Sussex University announced her decision to quit after facing death threats and calls from students for her dismissal over accusations of “transphobia,” which she denied.
Stock recently published a book questioning the claim that gender identity is more “socially significant” than biological sex. As Rebel News reported, Stock questioned whether anyone who identifies as a female be given automatic access to women’s changing rooms or be allowed to appear on women-only short lists and sports lists.
Stock’s views raised the ire of a group calling itself “Anti-Terf Sussex,” which described her as “one of this wretched island’s most prominent transphobes, espousing a bastardised variation of radical feminism.”
As detailed by the the Telegraph, students erected posters around campus demanding the university to fire her. Stock said she experienced a “very difficult few years” at the university that made her stay “untenable.”
Sussex University’s vice-chancellor Prof. Adam Thickell voiced his support for Stock over the past few weeks, stating that the university would not tolerate attacks on academic freedom. However, the university’s position has been criticized for not clamping down sooner as the campaign to oust Stock began over three years ago.
The university’s failure to stand up “almost legitimises certain behaviour and makes students think that it is ok for them to act in that way,” said Prof. Rosa Freedman, who teaches international human rights law at Reading University.
Following her resignation, British academics are now speaking out against the growing atmosphere of hostility on academic institutions, which they say must address the “crisis of free speech.” Campuses must “stop pandering to students.”
"Instead of endlessly pandering to the students, universities need to make it very, very clear in the inductions, in Freshers’ Week, that the institution exists to uphold academic freedom. And if they are unhappy about that, they need to leave,” said Prof. Michael Biggs, a sociology expert at Oxford University to the Telegraph.
Stock’s supporters in academia maintain that Sussex University should have done more to stand up to the campaign to oust her.
“I think what happened at Sussex is absolutely disastrous. It’s a complete failure of management,” said Prof. Alice Sullivan, who teaches sociology at University College London. “The fact that Kathleen has been hounded out of her job is a scalp for the bullies and will embolden them to try and do the same thing again.”
The professor added that university administrators must “stop pretending there is no crisis of free speech and start paying attention to the problem and trying to solve it,” noting that the institutions are afraid of criticizing students who serve as a major source of income through their tuition fees.
“The main thing most vice-chancellors care about is their bottom line,” she added. “Students are customers so they are very nervous about doing anything that might antagonise them."
“We need to educate young people about the concept of dealing with the argument rather than demonising the person they disagree with,” said Sullivan.
Prof. Biggs told the Telegraph that students are being encouraged to believe that being “offended” is “somehow a legitimate concern that can be used to bully an academic,” adding that pandered-to students “fundamentally misunderstand what the point of a university is. It is to pursue truth, not to protect their feelings.”
“Different people have different views which need to be aired and defended robustly. On gender issues, universities have completely failed to make students see this,” he said. “Students were arguing that Prof. Stock’s very existence, her presence in the university makes them feel unsafe. This is ludicrous, it's a university.”