University of Sussex professor quits following transphobia row

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Kathleen Stock, pictured, rejects claims that her comments were transphobic  (GMB)
Kathleen Stock, pictured, rejects claims that her comments were transphobic (GMB)

A philosophy professor has dramatically quit her job following a transphobia row.

University of Sussex academic Kathleen Stock sparked controversy after publishing a book that questioned whether gender identity is more “socially significant” than the biological sex someone is born with.

In response, a group of students launched a campaign to oust her, with a number of posters calling for her to be sacked put up near campus three weeks ago.

The university had defended Professor Stock, saying that the institution would not tolerate threats to “academic freedoms”.

In a public statement, Professor Stock said she is sad to leave but added that “this has been an absolutely horrible time for me and my family.”

She wrote on Twitter: “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.

“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.”

Sussex University said it will “miss her many contributions” but respects and understands her decision.

In an email to staff, Sussex’s vice-chancellor Adam Tickell said: “We had hoped that Prof 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.”

Professor Stock has previously admitted she’s “at odds” with most academics as she believes gender identity does not outweigh biological sex, “particularly when it comes to law and policy”.

In January, hundreds of academics signed an open letter criticising the decision to award Professor Stock an OBE for her services to higher education.

The letter condemned academics who use their platform to “further gender oppression” and denounced “transphobia in all its forms.”

Universities minister Michelle Donelan said on Twitter: "It is a sad day for freedom of speech - given the toxic environment at @sussexuni has made it untenable for @docstockk to maintain her position there.

"No academic should ever have to fear for their personal safety.

"This only reinforces the need for our Free Speech Bill."

A University of Sussex spokesman said: "Over the past several weeks, the University of Sussex has vigorously and unequivocally defended Professor Kathleen Stock’s right to exercise her academic freedom and lawful freedom of speech, free from bullying and harassment of any kind.

"These freedoms and protections apply to and benefit us all, and we will defend them today and in the future."

He added: "There were no substantive allegations of wrongdoing made against her.

"Professor Stock leaves the University of Sussex with our gratitude for her significant contributions as a teacher and academic."

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