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We stand together against transphobia

In our roles as representatives at Warwick SU, we stand in solidarity with the trans and non-binary communities, and their allies, protesting at the University of Sussex. This statement explains why.

We stand together against transphobia

In our roles as representatives at Warwick SU, we stand in solidarity with the trans and non-binary communities, and their allies, protesting at the University of Sussex.

Kathleen Stock, a professor at the University of Sussex until she resigned a few days ago, is well-known for her hateful anti-trans rhetoric and campaigns to exclude trans women from women’s spaces. She used her status at the university to profit from her bigotry and attack trans rights, including arguing against much-needed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act. In response, a group of queer activists called for the university to remove her from her position at the university.

The university’s response showed no concern for either the welfare of its students or their right to protest, and sought only to defend Stock’s “academic freedom” to attack trans people. It’s worrying, albeit unsurprising, to see a university jump so quickly to defend transphobia and dismiss the welfare needs of trans students and staff, as well the right to protest and freedom of speech  for students and staff with opposing views.

When challenged on their hateful views, both bigots and the universities that employ them often fall back on the concept of “academic freedom” as an excuse for hate and bigotry.

Of course, we know that academia is focused on the pursuit of knowledge and understanding, but bigots don’t come with an enquiring mind: they know what they believe and simply seek to express it. Bigots approach topics not from the perspective of “what can I find out by exploring this”, but of “how can I find ways to support my pre-existing views”. In doing so, their work is not only harmful to the marginalised communities they attack, but also to academia itself.

Universities do themselves a disservice when they permit and enable staff to stray so far from academic rigour, and even more so when they actively provide cover for them to continue to express their bigotry against marginalised groups. Bigots should have no place in universities, and universities must stand up for marginalised groups and stop giving cover and legitimacy to staff who seek to use them as cover to attack some of the most marginalised and vulnerable people in our society.

Academic freedom is incredibly important. It’s vital for academics to be free to explore new and controversial ideas, but there’s a vast difference between this and the kind of anti-trans rhetoric we see from some ‘academics’. Bigotry has no academic value, and we shouldn’t tolerate academic freedom as a defense for hatred.

The hypocrisy on display is clear when we consider the right to freedom of speech for the protestors. The university characterised the protests as an ‘attack’ on Stock for exercising her academic freedoms. But if Stock has the freedom to be as bigoted as she wants and call it academia, then surely both she and the university need to accept that this will result in protests such as the one currently taking place. If she is free to be transphobic, then surely other people have the freedom to respond. Academic freedom is not the freedom from criticism - in fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Signed:

  • Nathan Parsons (Postgraduate Officer)
  • Warwick Pride, the LGBTQUA+ Association
  • Abi Baxter (Trans Students Officer)
  • Noga Levy-Rapoport (co-LGBTQUA+ Officer)
  • Kirsten Marner-Foley (co-LGBTQUA+ Officer)
  • Naomi Carter (co-Women’s Officer)
  • Eman Barreh (co- Women’s Officer)
  • Sophie Kitching (Disabled Students’ Officer)
  • Autism at Warwick
  • Warwick Anti-Sexism Society
  • Warwick Anti-Racism Society

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