University cancelled seminar by feminist speaker following threats of protest from transgender activists

Camilla Turner
Kathleen Stock, a professor in philosophy at Sussex University, who was due to address academics there next week  - Andrew Crowley

A university cancelled a seminar by a feminist speaker, citing “academic freedom”, following threats of protest from transgender activists.

The University of East Anglia has been accused of “no-platforming” Kathleen Stock, a professor in philosophy at Sussex University, who was due to address academics there next week about philosophical issues surrounding  diversity and inclusion.

But she was informed that her seminar has now been postponed in order to respect “the views of members of the transgender community".

The university also cited “security and health and safety issues” and argued that allowing her talk to go ahead “raised issues of academic freedom”.  

Prof Stock, who has been labelled a “Terf” by transgender activists, said she has been effective “no-platformed” by the university.

Terf, which stands for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists, 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.

Prof Stock said she had been told that the university grew concerned after transgender activists threatened to protest at the event. 

“I think this is part of a wider pattern where an invitation to speak is given in the normal way, and then senior management panic in response apparently to some kind of protest,” she said.

“They know that can’t say they are cancelling the talk, so they say we are ‘postponing’ it in the interests of something nebulous like health and safety.”

The university said the talk could go ahead if a “transgender speaker” is also invited the following week. They said a bigger venue was needed as well as additional security. 

It is the latest free speech row on campus. In November, a feminist artist who was due to speak at Oxford Brookes University had her talk cancelled after students accused her of holding transphobic views.

Last year, the Open University cancelled a conference on prison reform after threats from the transgender lobby. The educational charity had been accused of transphobia for taking the view that transgender female prisoners should be jailed separately from female prisoners.