Entirely lawful expert views

Selina Todd wrote to the Times:

Sir, The role of a university should be to pursue truth, via careful research and active debate. The recent treatment of Professor Kathleen Stock suggests this is now secondary to attracting and pacifying student consumers (“Students demand firing of ‘transphobe’ professor”, News, Oct 8). Sussex University did not take “immediate action” to stop the bullying she faced this week. Offensive posters and stickers were visible by Tuesday, October 5. Only after public pressure was applied did the university remove these and (on Thursday, October 7) make a public statement, which paid lip service to academic freedom while assuring students of the university’s “inclusivity”.

Any scholar engaged in researching women or gender-identity ideology is vulnerable to bullying and intimidation. Yet the Universities and Colleges Union, and the professional associations for humanities scholars, remain silent. I hope Professor Stock’s bravery and integrity will inspire more concerned academics to speak out.
Selina Todd

So did the Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission:

Sir, The attacks on Professor Kathleen Stock and the campaign to have her fired are disgraceful. Sussex University is right to investigate these attacks and to defend academic freedom of speech. Trans rights must be protected but university is a place where we are exposed to ideas and learn to debate with each other. This involves hearing about, and challenging, opposing perspectives. It is not a place where people bully and harass professionals and berate institutions because they disagree with someone’s entirely lawful expert views. Other institutions faced with the same problems should follow Sussex University’s lead to stop these attacks on freedom of speech.

Tougher regulation of social media is needed so hatred cannot be spread. We will be considering this through our work on the Online Safety Bill and as part of our new strategic plan covering the next three years.

Baroness Falkner of Margravine
Chairwoman, Equality and Human Rights Commission

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