Pro-transgender students have launched a “bullying” campaign to demand that Sussex University sacks a professor who said that “many trans women are still males”.
Students have erected posters around campus which call on the university to fire Prof Kathleen Stock, claiming she is guilty of “transphobia”.
Prof Stock, an expert in analytic philosophy, has previously questioned the idea that men who feel like women should have automatic access to women-only facilities such as changing rooms, or be allowed to appear on women-only shortlists or sports teams.
A group calling itself “Anti Terf Sussex” describes Prof Stock online as “one of this wretched island’s most prominent transphobes, espousing a bastardised variation of radical feminism”.
Terf – which stands for Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist – is generally used as a derogatory term to describe those who believe that “identifying” as a woman is not the same as being born a woman. It can also be used to refer to people who are deemed to hold “transphobic” views.
The group claims Prof Stock is a “bigot” as well as being “anti-feminist, anti-queer and anti-intellectual” with views that are “harmful and dangerous to trans people”.
The group has published a manifesto which demands the university fires Prof Stock, adding “until then, you’ll see us around”.
Prof Stock has previously faced a no-platforming campaign for her views, while fellow “gender critical” academics have been given security guards to accompany them to lectures and panic buttons for their offices after facing threats from the pro-transgender lobby.
Prof Stock, who was given an OBE for services to higher education in the New Year Honours, has previously said: “I am definitely not saying that trans women are particularly dangerous – they are definitely not. Most trans people are law-abiding and wouldn’t dream of harming anyone.
“However, many trans women are still males with male genitalia, many are sexually attracted to females, and they should not be in places where females undress or sleep in a completely unrestricted way.”
Academics have called on the university to step up its efforts to protect Prof Stock, and the hashtag #ShameOnSussexUni was trending on Twitter on Thursday.
“What kind of future does a university have where intimidation determines what is said or taught?” Prof Stock tweeted.
Adam Tickell, vice-Chancellor of Sussex, confirmed on Thursday night that the university had launched an investigation into those who are criticising Prof Stock for “exercising her academic freedoms”.
He added: “Disturbingly, this has included pressuring the university to terminate her employment.
“Everyone at the university has the right to be free from harassment and intimidation. We cannot and will not tolerate threats to cherished academic freedoms and will take any action necessary to protect the rights of our community.”
A University of Sussex spokesman said they were “extremely concerned” that a member of the staff was being harassed, adding that they had taken “immediate action” in response.
They said: “We are deeply committed to being a safe and inclusive university, which values and advances equality and diversity, seeks to resolve conflicts, advances good relations and upholds lawful free speech,” they said.
“As a university community, we must be able to have complex discussions without bullying or harassment. We will always take swift action when this occurs.
“Our role as a university is to facilitate such conversations to advance shared understanding and common agreement. We insist that these are carried out respectfully and are always protective of our staff and students.”