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An anonymous student campaign against University of Sussex professor Kathleen Stock says trans and non-binary students will be “safer” on campus without her.
Stock resigned from Sussex following three weeks of peaceful protests by LGBT+ students against her trans-exclusionary rhetoric.
On Thursday (28 October), vice chancellor Adam Tickell told staff and students that Stock “has decided to leave the university”.
“The University of Sussex has vigorously and unequivocally defended [Stock’s] right to exercise her academic freedom and lawful freedom of speech, free from bullying and harassment of any kind,” Tickell’s statement said.
“We had hoped that Professor Stock would feel able to return to work, and we would have supported her to do so,” it continues. “She has decided that recent events have meant that this will not be possible, and we respect and understand that decision.”
The “Anti-TERF Sussex” Instagram account, run by an anonymous group of LGBT+ Sussex students, wrote in response: “This is a monumental victory for trans and non-binary students, who have protested the ways that this university has enabled transphobia, abuse and discrimination.”
The statement continues: “This has been a campaign to get Stock out of Sussex, for the sake of the safety and protection of trans and non-binary students.
“And it f***ing worked. Direct action gets the goods, and trans and non-binary students are safer and happier for it.
“But the struggle isn’t over. Institutional transphobia lives on, it runs deeper than Stock or Tickell or Sussex or any university. Trans liberation is possible in our lifetimes but we must stand strong together in the face of structures that support eliminationists and bigots.”
Stock resigned on 28 October after three weeks of peaceful student protests that began with two posters being anonymously put up on campus.
Organising under the slogan “Stock Out”, LGBT+ students launched their campaign on 6 October by calling on the university to terminate Stock’s employment over her trans-exclusionary views and position as trustee of an anti-trans charity, LGB Alliance.
Sussex LGBT+ students: ‘We acted as a community built on solidarity and love’
The “Anti-TERF Sussex” account, described as “an unaffiliated network of queer and trans students, called the vice chancellor’s statement about Stock’s resignation a “commitment to people’s rights to be transphobic and to Stock’s precious career”.
“Tickell will leave a legacy of abuse and discrimination following his time at Sussex,” the statement says, adding that Sussex students “sincerely hope” that students at Birmingham, where Tickell is heading next term, “will refuse to be governed by Tickell’s insincerity and authoritarian strategies”.
Tickell has defended his staff’s untrammelled right to academic freedom, stating that “gender critical” beliefs are a protected belief.
“We have organised as a network of autonomous actors – and it is due to our anonymity, plurality of tactics and decentralised structure that we have succeeded,” the statement continues.
“We can only extend a massive thank you to everyone involved in the petitions, open letters, university complaints, protests, stickers, posters and more. This has been an occasion of coming together when we needed to, and looking out for each other’s safety and autonomy in ways that nobody else has. We acted as a community built on solidarity and love. And that’s f**king powerful.
“You can do it too. You don’t need permission or authority granted upon you from any group or individual to be able to resist, to claim your autonomy, to look after each other, to build a better world for the people you care about. Trans resistance will always overcome. United, never to be defeated.”
LGBT+ students at the University of Sussex had branded Stock a “transphobe” and accused her of “espousing a bastardised version of ‘radical feminism’ that excludes and endangers trans people”.
Stock strongly denies that she is transphobic, and has previously said that she “asserts the rights of trans people to live their lives free from fear, violence, harassment or any discrimination”.
In a Twitter thread, Kathleen Stock said she is “sad to announce” that she is leaving the University of Sussex.
“This has been a very difficult few years, but the leadership’s approach more recently has been admirable and decent. I hope that other institutions in similar situations can learn from this,” she posted.
“This has been an absolutely horrible time for me and my family. I’m putting it behind me now. On to brighter things soon, I hope.”
Stock was awarded an OBE by the government for service to higher education in January 2021. The decision was protested by more than 600 of her academic colleagues, who warned about a “tendency to mistake transphobic fearmongering for valuable scholarship, and attacks on already marginalised people for courageous exercises of free speech”.