Kathleen Stock resigns

Submitted by AWL on 2 November, 2021 - 10:04 Author: A UCU activist
Sussex University sign

Kathleen Stock, a professor of philosophy widely criticised for her role as a trustee of the LGB Alliance (which plays a pernicious role in undermining inclusive LGBT+ campaigns) and for her support for so-called “sex-based rights” for women that exclude trans women, has quit her job at Sussex University. Despite public backing from University management, and from Universities Minister Michelle Donelan, she claimed that she had been forced out. Donelan has called explicitly for another university to give Stock a job. Stock is clearly positioning herself as a “free speech martyr”, despite the fact that her resignation is her choice.

It is not surprising that the government is defending Stock. The Tories see this case as a way to wage their culture war. They want to claim that opponents of trans rights are the real victims. In fact their cuts to services mean many trans people cannot get vital healthcare unless they pay to go private.

The Stock case has been widely portrayed in the media as a freedom of speech issue, but Stock’s freedom of expression was far better defended by both government and management than that of her student critics. Freedom of speech is not for one side alone: we support students’ right to protest even when we oppose their demands. Allegations that some of Stock’s opponents have engaged in threatening behaviour are not an excuse to clamp down on protest generally.

While there has been no sacking here, in general, Solidarity opposes dismissal of academics for political views. Allowing such sackings opens the way to their use against critics of the government like us. Discriminatory or harassing behaviour that can (but doesn’t necessarily) follow from political views may be grounds for sacking after due process and where mitigation without further harm to victims is impossible. In all such cases we call for independent and transparent processes to deal with allegations of misconduct.

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