An academic at the centre of a row over her views on gender identity has said the lecturers’ union has "effectively ended" her career after it called on her university to offer "unequivocal support" to trans students.
Kathleen Stock, a professor of philosophy at the University of Sussex, has faced calls from students to be removed from her post amid accusations of "transphobia". Last week, students erected posters around campus, calling on the university to fire her.
Prof Stock, an expert in analytic philosophy, recently published a book questioning the idea that gender identity is more "socially significant" than biological sex.
She has also 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.
She denies claims that she is a transphobe.
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.
Death threats received
Prof Stock, who has received death threats from pro-transgender activists, has been advised by the police to have CCTV at her front door and have put a marker on her phone so that if she dials 999 there is an automatic call-out to her house.
She said she feels "vulnerable", adding that the police implied she would need security guards to accompany her around the university campus.
On Tuesday the row deepened as the University and College Union’s (UCU) Sussex branch issued a statement which said: "In the light of recent events on campus and ensuing public response on social media, we extend our solidarity to all trans and nonbinary members of our community who, now more than ever, should receive the unequivocal support of the University and its management.
"As a union, we strongly condemn all forms of transphobia, and call the University of Sussex leadership to heed its institution’s values and commitments as set out in its Trans Equality Statement and its Dignity and Respect policy."
The UCU statement went on to urge the university’s management to "take a clear and strong stance against transphobia at Sussex", adding: "Now is the time for our University leadership to uphold the institution’s stated values by ensuring that the dignity and respect of trans and nonbinary staff and students, and their allies, are enshrined at the core of the University’s culture."
The union said they are calling for an urgent investigation into "the ways in which institutional transphobia operates at our university and diminishes the democratic rights and freedoms of some of its most vulnerable members".
Prof Stock said that her former union branch "has just effectively ended my career at Sussex University" by sending the statement out to its members.
University of Sussex ‘extremely concerned’
Michelle Donelan, the universities minister, has said it is "unacceptable" that Prof Stock is having to be supported by the police following threats to her physical safety.
"Dissent, disagreement, debate and peaceful protest are fundamental to any democratic society," Ms Donelan said on Twitter. "Physical intimidation or threats against those with different views is always unacceptable and action must be taken against the perpetrators."
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 added: "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."