UK universities struggle to deal with ‘toxic’ trans rights row

Anna Fazackerley for The Guardian writes:

Transgender issues cut across many academic disciplines including law, gender studies, philosophy and history, and so the issues are natural ones for academics to discuss. Freedman is focusing on the Gender Recognition Act as part of her job as a law professor with expertise in human rights. “I am deeply concerned by how the conflation of sex and gender is leading to subjugation of women and is undermining the specific protections guaranteed to women under international and national human rights law,” she says.

As well as many abusive comments on Twitter, she has been shown a written request from an academic at another university asking for her to be blacklisted from giving any papers or attending events in their law school. Colleagues have also told her that Reading University has received written and verbal complaints about her views from its staff and students, and from people outside the university.

Kathleen Stock, professor of philosophy at Sussex University, who has been critical of trans self-identification as part of her work on feminist philosophy, has been publicly labelled “transphobic” by Sussex students’ union. The union put out a statement about her saying: “We will not tolerate hate on campus, and we will do everything in our power to protect our students.” She says the union and some students have sent emails asking her head of school and other senior managers to condemn or publicly disassociate themselves with her views, and students have protested against her on campus.

Stock says she knows academics at other universities who are “terrified of being fired” for their views on this subject. She wants UK universities to follow those in the US that have adopted the “Chicago [University] principles” on free speech. This is a commitment to allowing free debate on campus, even if other people at the university think someone’s views are “offensive, unwise or immoral”.

Stock says: “I can deal with strangers behind pseudonyms saying horrible things on Twitter, and, up to a point, with young, inexperienced students condemning me. But what I can’t understand is academics going out of their way to shame me.”

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/oct/30/uk-universities-struggle-to-deal-with-toxic-trans-rights-row

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