Several academics have called on university heads to robustly protect free speech after Professor Kathleen Stock was ousted from her job for defending the reality of biological sex.
Professor Michael Biggs of Oxford University stated that the current culture at some universities was “ludicrous” and is embedded within the institutions themselves.
Stock faced online harassment, including death threats, for stating that men cannot become women. Activists targeted her workplace and erected banners calling on the university to sack her.
‘Uphold academic freedom’
Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Prof Biggs said: “Instead of endlessly pandering to the students, universities need to make it very, very clear in the inductions, in Freshers’ Week, that the institution exists to uphold academic freedom. And if they are unhappy about that, they need to leave.”
He was joined by University College London sociologist Professor Alice Sullivan, who said the Stock case was “absolutely disastrous” and “a complete failure of management”.
The fact that Kathleen has been hounded out of her job is a scalp for the bullies
She added: “The fact that Kathleen has been hounded out of her job is a scalp for the bullies and will embolden them to try and do the same thing again.”
The academics’ comments came as another senior academic began legal proceedings against the Open University (OU) over her treatment for defending single-sex spaces.
Jo Phoenix, a professor of criminology at the OU, said she was subjected to two years of harassment for saying men who identify as women should not share intimate spaces with female prisoners.
Also speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Phoenix explained how the OU Gender Critical Research Network – an online forum she created to discuss issues of gender – was denounced as “fundamentally hostile to the rights of trans people” in an open letter signed by more than 360 colleagues.
She added that she had received “threatening emails from anonymous senders” in which activists told her that they were “out to get me” and “I ought to watch myself”. Phoenix said she wanted to take her case to the courts to defend “the right to freedom of expression at British universities”.
The professor also reported that a number of OU staff and senior academics had been in contact with her for support or advice but “dare not say anything publicly”.
Last month, she was among over 200 academics who called on the Equality and Human Rights Commission to intervene at universities where staff and students who uphold the reality of biological sex have suffered “bullying, harassment and no-platforming”.
The academics cited figures from the organisation Sex Matters which has “logged 80 news reports of bullying, harassment and no-platforming at UK universities”.