Rishi Sunak says gender critical speech must go ahead in Oxford

Rishi Sunak says gender critical speech must go ahead in Oxford

June 2, 2023

Rishi Sunak tells trans activist students they shouldn’t try to stop gender-critical feminist Kathleen Stock’s planned speech at Oxford University: ‘We mustn’t allow a small but vocal few to shut down discussion’

  •  Trans activists want to block Professor Stock’s speech this evening

Rishi Sunak has waded into an Oxford University trans row, saying Professor Kathleen Stock has a right to speak on campus despite protests from students.

The academic, who is a gender-critical feminist, is due to appear at an Oxford Union event this evening. 

But trans activists want to block her from speaking over claims she is transphobic, and hundreds are due to stage a protest against her today. 

Intervening in the university’s free speech debate, Mr Sunak told The Daily Telegraph: ‘A free society requires free debate. We should all be encouraged to engage respectfully with the ideas of others. 

‘University should be an environment where debate is supported, not stifled. We mustn’t allow a small but vocal few to shut down discussion. Kathleen Stock’s invitation to the Oxford Union should stand.’

Protestors gathered in Library Square, Sussex University, protesting against Professor Stock earlier this month

Trans activists have tried to block Kathleen Stock (pictured) from making a speech at the famed Oxford Union 

Mr Sunak defended Professor Stock’s right to debate the subject

Professor Stock quit her job as a lecturer at the University of Sussex after being targeted by activists over her views on gender identity.

A coalition of Oxford organisations and activists is set to hold a Trans+ Pride event in the city centre on Tuesday, which will include a rally and march culminating outside the Oxford Union, where Professor Stock is due to speak at the 200-year-old debating society.

Some groups have called for her invitation to be rescinded.

Prof Stock’s talk comes days after a group of Oxford University academics and staff signed a letter supporting the right of transgender students to speak out against her.

Oxford academics and staff first wrote to The Daily Telegraph, condemning the approach of those who opposed Professor Stock’s views.

The BBC reported that the open letter, shared on Saturday by the university’s LGBTQ+ society and signed by 100 academics and staff, said: ‘We believe that trans students should not be made to debate their existence.’

The Oxford Union has announced it is to offer ‘welfare resources’ to students attending a talk by Professor Stock, which is expected to cover ‘sensitive’ topics.

The organisation, which describes itself as the ‘last bastion of free speech’, has said students will be able to ‘challenge’ Prof Stock at the event.

The spires of Oxford University, where Professor Stock is due to speak at the 200-year-old debating society

Earlier this month Oxford University’s vice-chancellor Irene Tracey defended the right for Professor Stock to speak there as a matter of ‘freedom of speech’, saying she believes that part of the university’s role is to enable students to deal with differing viewpoints.

She told The Times newspaper: ‘Most students actually get it and are quite impassioned about the fact that people should have a range of views.’

In 2021, Professor Stock announced she would be leaving her job as a professor of philosophy at the University of Sussex after ‘a very difficult few years’.

The academic had faced calls to be sacked amid accusations of transphobia.

In a statement last month, the Oxford University LGBTQ+ society called for Professor Stock’s invitation to speak to be rescinded as it claimed she was ‘transphobic and trans-exclusionary’.

It also accused the Oxford Union of ‘disregarding’ the welfare of the society’s members under the guise of free speech.

Professor Stock said on Twitter that the society’s statement contained ‘several falsehoods’, was ‘probably defamatory’ and made it look ‘utterly ridiculous’.

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