Striking lecturers’ union boss REFUSES to condemn ousting of feminist professor Kathleen Stock after academics spoke out in trans rights row

  • UCU general-secretary Jo Grady refused to condemn ousting of Kathleen Stock 
  • Ms Stock quit her position at University of Sussex following trans right row 
  • She faced calls to be sacked after saying people cannot change biological sex
  • Feminist academic accused Sussex UCU of ‘effectively’ ending her career
  • But Ms Grady instead denounced ‘misinformation’ around the branch’s actions 

A university trade union leader has refused to condemn the ousting of a University of Sussex professor by students who carried out a ‘bullying and harassment’ campaign over her views on gender politics.

Kathleen Stock, 48, had faced angry calls to be sacked in September by students at the university following accusations of transphobia after she said people cannot change their biological sex.

The feminist academic had accused the Sussex branch of the University and College Union of ‘effectively’ ending her career after it called on her employer to take a ‘strong stance’ against transphobia.

But the general-secretary of the University and College Union, Jo Grady, today refused to condemn student protesters who campaigned to oust Ms Stock, a professor of philosophy.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, Ms Grady instead denounced what she claimed was ‘consistent misinformation’ around Sussex UCU’s actions during the row. 

In a statement, the Sussex branch had said all trans and non-binary members ‘now more than ever should receive the unequivocal support’ of the University of Sussex.

Asked if she was ‘sorry’ that Ms Stock had lost her job, Ms Grady said: ‘I think it’s really unfortunate if anybody in higher education feels that they have been chased out of their jobs.

‘I’m afraid that I’m really not going to be commenting on any individual members, and I think particularly when the Sussex branch have put out a very clear statement that they condemn bullying.

‘She’s entitled to feel however she wants.’

Pressed on whether she supported Ms Stock, the UCU general-secretary went on: ‘I don’t feel the need to say whether I back anybody. 


The general-secretary of the University and College Union, Jo Grady (right), has refused to condemn the ousting of Kathleen Stock (left) from her position at the University of Sussex by students

Trans activists celebrated after Ms Stock quit her University of Sussex job

Kathleen Stock explained her views on trans issues in written evidence to Parliament in November 2020 here:

  • Womanhood and manhood reflect biological sex, not gender or gender identity;
  • The claim ‘transwomen are women’ is a fiction, not literally true
  • Sexual orientation (being gay, being lesbian) is determined by same-sex attraction, not attraction to gender identity
  • Spaces where women undress and sleep should remain genuinely single-sex, in order to protect them;
  • Children with gender identity disorders should not be given puberty blockers as minors.

‘What I want to put on record, what I think is misinformation about the Sussex branch – they put out a statement very clearly condemning bullying and harassment, not calling for anybody to lose their job, and there is a consistent misinformation attempt around that statement to suggest that they did otherwise. 

‘And I think they acted sterlingly in upholding the right to academic freedom, upholding that people should not be bullied and harassed, but also upholding the right for people to attend campus and not be bullied and harassed and have their rights respected.

‘I think it’s really important to correct the misinformation that has been put around, around what Sussex UCU did or did not do.’ 

More than 200 of Ms Stock’s fellow academics had backed her in a letter to the Sunday Times signed by figures including Cambridge economist Sir Partha Dasgupta and physicist Sir Michael Pepper.

Under the heading ‘We will not bow to trans activist bullies on campus’, the letter stated: ‘This is not just an issue of freedom of expression. It is also an issue of harassment and discrimination.

‘Universities are creating an intimidating and hostile environment for staff and students who recognise that sex matters.

‘Most of the victims are female, and many are gay, lesbian or bisexual.’

This week, Ms Stock spoke for the first time about about resigning from her post of twenty years on BBC Woman’s Hour.

The academic said she still holds the view that ‘trans women aren’t women’ and ‘trans men aren’t men’ – but said these views are ‘compatible with protecting trans people’.

She called her departure from the university ‘completely humiliating’ and ‘a defining moment in my life’ but said she had ‘no regrets’ about leaving and stood by her views that female-only spaces should be protected.

Ms Stock said returning to campus to retrieve her belongings was an ‘anxious’ experience and that she even felt anxious getting the train to the Woman’s Hour studio, saying ‘my life has changed completely’.

She suggested the views of a small number of academics who were against her inflamed the student protests by ‘radically misrepresenting my views’, saying: ‘I don’t know if the student activity would have been there if the colleague activity hadn’t already been there.’

In the 30-minute interview on Radio 4, she described how ‘intense’ student activity came at the end of ‘three-and-a-half years of low level bullying, harassment and reputation trashing’ by colleagues, which began, she says, when she first started to write about gender identity policy.

Instead of debating her views directly with her, she said some staff had mobilised students against her during lectures.

Ms Stock explained: ‘There’s a small group of people who are opposed to what I say and instead of getting involved in arguing with me, using reason, evidence, the traditional university methods, they tell their students in lectures that I pose a harm to trans students. 

This week, Ms Stock spoke for the first time about about resigning from her post of twenty years on BBC Woman’s Hour 

Posters put up in the tunnel from Falmer station to the university’s campus said she ‘makes trans students unsafe’ and ‘we’re not paying £9,250 a year for transphobia’

Banners saying ‘Stock Out’ had also been held alongside burning flares and scores of people were criticising her online under the Twitter hashtag #ShameOnSussexUni

Open University criminology professor who said ‘male-bodied’ trans women should NOT be in female prisons suffers public harassment and is compared to a ‘racist uncle at Christmas dinner table’ for her gender critical beliefs 

A Professor of Criminology at the Open University has described how she was compared to a ‘racist uncle at a Christmas dinner table’ for her gender critical beliefs.

Professor Jo Phoenix has crowdfunded more than £80,000 to fight her current employers for not protecting her from a bullying campaign after she expressed views about the silencing of academic debate on transgender issues.

She claims the Open University, who she began working for in 2016, ‘shattered’ her dreams and made her feel ‘like a pariah’.

Professor Phoenix said she has been publicly vilified and suffered public harassment for launching the Open University gender critical research network.

She also said her view that male-bodied prisoners should not be allowed in female prisons resulted in her being compared to a transphobic and racist.

By bringing the Open University to an employment tribunal, she hopes to protect female academics from ‘the vicious bullying perpetrated by those who disagree with our beliefs on sex and gender’.

The Government’s policy to house transgender women in female prisons was ruled lawful by the High Court in July earlier this year amid claims from an inmate it raised the risk of sex attacks.

In 2018, Karen White – who was born a man but was placed in women’s prison HMP New Hall after telling authorities of his identification as a woman – sexually assaulted two female inmates.

 

‘Or they go on to Twitter and say that I’m a bigot.’

She told Ms Barnett ‘feeling unsafe doesn’t mean you are unsafe’ and she hopes the students realise ‘the world is not as hostile towards them as they think it is’.

The feminist professor, who identifies as a lesbian, said that she first became aware of the complexities of the trans rights movement when she saw ‘men’ on lesbian dating websites.

When asked by the Woman’s Hour host if by ‘men’ she meant ‘trans women’ she replied: ‘I don’t know what they were’ explaining that physically some had an appearance traditionally considered as masculine but ‘with female names’.

She explained: ‘The categories are changing in radical ways and ‘lesbian’ is one of them. There’s real pressure on lesbians to accept that trans women can be lesbians and I think that has made lesbians of this in a way that straight people aren’t necessarily as aware.

‘There isn’t the same pressure on straight women or straight men.’

She went on to say she was ‘ostracised’ while working at the university and faced a ‘terrible anxiety dream’ seeing her name plastered on posters across campus reading ‘Stock Out’ and ‘Stock is a Transphobe’.

Ms Stock added: ‘The narrative about me is so far away from what I think I am.’

The academic also said that she’s ‘happily’ taught trans students throughout her career and has been contacted by them following her resignation and that her book is not a threat to trans and non-binary people.

Despite the University saying they would not sack Ms Stock, and ‘vigorously and unequivocally’ defending her right to academic freedom and lawful freedom of speech, free from bullying and harassment, she decided to leave last week.

‘So they’re creating an atmosphere in which the students then become much more extreme and much more kind of empowered to do what they did.

‘I’m not saying that they intentionally set out to cause this point but I do think that academics are treated by students as role models quite often,’ she explained.

‘If you’re in a class as a student, and your lecturer is saying, look, ‘there are some views that are just beyond the pale that should never be debated’ .

‘Then automatically as soon as you say something that makes you bigot.

‘You just have to go on to Twitter and see who has said this.

‘This is a a small number of people who really are quite extreme. In departmental meetings, people radically misrepresent my views, saying things like, ‘Oh, she thinks all trans women are rapists. Or she she’s a bigot. She’s awful, she she doesn’t like trans people”.

‘And all of this is totally false. But I am increasingly powerless to change the narrative myself.’ 

Ms Stock, an expert in gender and sexual orientation, had been branded a ‘transphobe’ by some outraged students who called for her to be fired in wake of her comments on gender.

Posters put up in the tunnel from Falmer station to the university’s campus earlier this month said she ‘makes trans students unsafe’ and ‘we’re not paying £9,250 a year for transphobia’.

Attention on her views has intensified since her book Material Girls came out in May

Banners saying ‘Stock Out’ had also been held alongside burning flares and scores of people were criticising her online under the Twitter hashtag #ShameOnSussexUni.

The University’s Vice Chancellor Adam Tickell had strongly defended her ‘untrammelled’ right to ‘say what she thinks’, whilst more than 200 academics from other universities signed a letter calling out alleged abuse from ‘trans activist bullies’.

But Ms Stock ultimately announced on Twitter that she was leaving her position, and added that she hoped ‘other institutions can learn from this’.

In a letter to staff, Sussex’s Vice Chancellor Adam Tickell said that the university had ‘vigorously’ defended her right to ‘exercise her academic freedom and lawful freedom of speech, free from bullying and harassment of any kind’.

But he added: ‘We had hoped that Professor Stock would feel able to return to work, and we would have supported her to do so.

‘She has decided that recent events have meant that this will not be possible, and we respect and understand that decision.

‘We will miss her many contributions, from which the University has benefited during her time here.’

After the posters were put up calling for her to be sacked, Sussex Police launched an investigation into whether Professor Stock was a victim of harassment.

Kishwer Falkner, the head of the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission, was among those who slammed the attacks on the academic.

She wrote to The Times to denounce the bullying behaviour of a minority of students who ‘disagree with someone’s entirely lawful expert views’.

In her public letter, the equality watchdog chief agreed that ‘trans rights must be protected’, but reiterated the importance of academic integrity and freedom of expression on university campuses across the UK.

Ms Stock had also spoken out, telling her 46,000 Twitter followers: ‘If you work where I do, and you know what’s happening to me at the moment (which I’ll discuss at later date), this is the time to say something about it.

‘Not for me, but for you. What kind of future does a university have where intimidation determines what is said or taught?’

The group which led the protests against her was an anonymous collective called ‘Anti Terf Sussex’, which described itself as an ‘unaffiliated network of queer and trans students’. ‘Terf’ means a ‘trans-exclusionary radical feminist’.

It was the term levelled at JK Rowling over her response to an article about ‘people who menstruate’.

The author had tweeted last year: ‘I’m sure there used to be a word for those people’, suggesting that word was ‘women’.

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