Murray Blackburn Mackenzie, an Edinburgh-based independent policy analysis collective, found that no Scottish university has a “single-sex, female-only” staff network or representative body.
The group sent Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to 15 Scottish universities which questioned whether each institution had a female-only staff network, and if so, who it was open to. The FOI responses found that “no university in Scotland has any form of organised representation or networking for female staff based on the protected characteristic of sex in the Equality Act”.
This investigation follows the resignation of Professor Kathleen Stock of Sussex University. Murray Blackburn Mackenzie went on record to say that Stock leaving the post “brought the inadequate handling of sex and gender identity issues within UK Higher Education to the fore”.
Professor Stock received an immense backlash after blogging about her views on the reformation of the Gender Recognition Act. Following Judith Butler’s assertion that gender is a social construct, and trans writer Julia Serano’s work on gender identity, Stock told The Sunday Times in an interview that despite seeing the attraction of the theories being discussed, she failed to see the logic in the "liberal academic orthodoxy [that] a person's inner gender identity took precedence over their biological sex", and her stance remains as such.
Recently, Stock has also criticised the University of Glasgow's philosophy department. She commented online on the "joke academic philosophy is fast becoming" alongside UofG philosophy's call for papers on trans issues, with particular reference to one essay title: "Rainy Fascism Island: What the hell is going on in the UK right now?"
Initially, she began to receive comments aimed at her online, however the reaction to Professor Stock’s commentary grew, and most recently, students at Sussex took to protesting against Stock's employment at the University, with police informing her that she was "unsafe on campus".
The student group "Anti Terf Sussex" was one that formed on Instagram with the aim of pushing Stock out of Sussex. The page shows numerous pictures of posters and demonstrations held on Sussex University campus, with one on a tunnel wall reading: "It's not a debate / It's not feminism / It's not philosophy / It's just transphobia and it's not on / Fire Kathleen Stock."
Following her resignation, @antiterfsussex posted a screenshot that stated: "Good riddance. This is a monumental victory for trans and non-binary students who have protested the ways that this University has enabled transphobia, abuse and discrimination… Direct action gets the goods, and trans and non-binary students are safer and happier for it."
Murray Blackburn Mackenzie state that Stock’s is not a standalone case, and Oxford University’s Professor Selina Todd has “required security at her lectures”, whilst events on “women’s sex-based rights” at Oxford Brookes, Edinburgh and Essex have been “postponed or cancelled”.
However, those who oppose Stock and others who don’t recognise trans women as being privy to the same rights and spaces as those born female at birth – most commonly termed “trans-exclusionary radical feminists” or “TERFs” – emphasise that these views are transphobic. The “Anti Terf Sussex” group stated: “Institutional transphobia lives on; it runs deeper than any university. Trans liberation is possible in our lifetimes but we must stand strong together in the face of structures that support eliminationists and bigots.”
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