I had some difficulty following the arguments in Camila Bassi’s article “Academic freedom: we must fight for it” in Solidarity 614. I can only assure Camila that I am not being facetious when I say I simply do not understand what she means by “Academic freedom is contingent upon the epistemologies and politics of the time.”
What was clear to me, however, is that Camila is entirely unsympathetic to Kathleen Stock, referring to her complaints of bullying and intimidation by some colleagues, students and campaigners as a “lament that she was a victim” and claiming that her resignation has “provided her with an extraordinarily high platform in mainstream media” which she has “used to question the right of students to protest.”
This follows on from an equally anti-Stock article by a “UCU activist” in Solidarity 612, suggesting that she is “positioning herself as a ‘free speech martyr’, despite the fact that her resignation was her choice.” This earlier article also contains the rather half-hearted statement that “while there was no sacking here, in general Solidarity opposes dismissal of academics for political views” (my emphasis).
What both these articles gloss over is the level of personalised abuse, harassment and thinly veiled threats of physical violence directed at Stock, demoralising and wearing her down to the point that she resigned. There is no credible evidence that she set out to be a “free speech martyr” or that she actually did or said anything in the course of her employment or related to her employment, to warrant such vile treatment. No one, to the best of my knowledge, has claimed that Stock had discriminated against anyone or abused her position as an academic to proselytise for her contentious views whilst teaching or lecturing — unlike, according to at least some accounts, the antisemite and conspiracy theorist David Miller, sacked by Bristol University.
And the fact that Stock eventually resigned does not change the reality that the campaign against her centred upon the demand that the Sussex University bosses sack her because of her views, not because of anything she had done: that is unacceptable from any socialist or even just trade union perspective and Solidarity should say so clearly, without reservation and in plain language.
Jack McDonough, Birmingham