Prof Stock and students at the University of
More than 160 legal academics have declared their support for academic freedom after a professor was targeted by students for her views.
Dr Kathleen Stock, a professor of philosophy at the University of Sussex, has stated that transgender people "deserve to be safe, to be visible throughout society without shame or stigma, and to have exactly the life opportunities non-trans people do", but she also maintains that there are only two sexes, and that biological females should have the right to same sex spaces for reasons of safety and privacy.
Following the publication of Stock's book about the subject, Material Girls, a group of Sussex Uni students released a statement which accused the university of employing someone whose "rhetoric has contributed to the dire state of unsafety for trans people in this colonial shit-hole".
Calling for "Anti-Stock Action", the anonymous students said, "we've fucking had enough", and called for people to get "angry enough to do something about it".
Protests which saw masked students lining the roads on campus prompted police to advise Stock to stay away and consider hiring bodyguards.
Now legal academics from across the UK have come forward to champion the University "in its defence of academic freedom" after Adam Tickell, Sussex’s vice-chancellor, told the BBC that academics had an "untrammelled right" to “say and believe what they think".
Over 160 professors, lecturers, and readers from 40 universities put their names to the open letter in response to "the harassment campaign targeting your colleague, Professor Kathleen Stock".
It states that, "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".
"As legal scholars it is essential to our practice that we teach students how to criticise arguments", said the signatories.
"Professor Stock is engaged with the question of whether sex should be replaced with self-identified gender in all legal, political, and social contexts, as is currently being advocated for in the UK", they wrote. “Unless she and others involved in this debate are permitted to raise their concerns on this matter, and to offer reasoned argument without fear of harassment, the danger remains that public policy in respect of gender identification will be made without adequate reflection and scrutiny. We believe such reflection and scrutiny to be among the most important purposes of the mission of a university", they said.
With over 25 signatories, LSE's law department is the biggest bastion of free speech so far, followed by Oxford with 20. However, none of Stock’s colleagues in Sussex University’s law school have risked provoking students by adding their own names.