Trans row engulfs Oxford University as 40 top dons including Richard Dawkins pen letter in support of appearance by gender-critical feminist Kathleen Stock after students tried to block talk
A trans row has engulfed Oxford University with more than 40 academics warning students that freedom of speech is at risk on their campus, it was claimed last night.
Top Oxford dons, including evolutionary biologist Prof Richard Dawkins and theologian Prof Nigel Biggar, have written a letter in support of a planned appearance at the Oxford Union by gender-critical feminist Prof Kathleen Stock.
Some Oxford students tried to block Prof Stock from speaking at the union this month over claims she is transphobic for stating it is fiction to claim ‘transwomen are women’.
But in one of the most significant interventions by academics in recent free speech controversies, 44 Oxford dons with ‘a range of different political beliefs, Left and Right’ have signed a letter stating that universities should be ‘places where contentious views can be openly discussed’.
Writing to The Daily Telegraph, the academics said they condemn the Oxford University Student Union’s decision to sever ties with the Oxford Union after it refused to withdraw an invitation asking Prof Stock to speak.
Some Oxford students tried to block Prof Kathleen Stock (pictured) from speaking at a union this month over claims she is transphobic for stating it is fiction to claim ‘transwomen are women’
The letter added: ‘Professor Stock believes that biological sex in humans is real and socially salient, a view which until recently would have been so commonplace as to hardly merit asserting.
‘Whether or not one agrees with Professor Stock’s views, there is no plausible and attractive ideal of academic freedom, or of free speech more generally, which would condemn their expression as outside the bounds of permissible discourse.’
Prof Stock resigned from her post as a philosophy professor at Sussex University in 2021 after a group of trans activists campaigned for her to be fired.
Top Oxford dons, including evolutionary biologist Prof Richard Dawkins (pictured), have written a letter in support of a planned appearance at the Oxford Union by gender-critical feminist Prof Kathleen Stock
The professor had stated that it is fiction to claim ‘transwomen are women’ and described the law that gives trans people the right to change gender as a ‘legal fiction’.
Responding to the academics’ letter in support of her, Prof Stock told The Telegraph: ‘It’s heartening to see their commitment to standing up in public against authoritarian tendencies, both in the student body and amongst faculty, who think they have a right to control what everyone else hears.’
It comes as gender-critical speakers have prompted a spate of free speech rows at universities, including activists at the University of Edinburgh preventing a screening of a women’s rights documentary last month.