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Am I really such a danger to Oxford’s students?

A cut-price Kendall Roy? (Greg Blatchford/CLICK NEWS AND MEDIA)

October 4, 2023 - 4:35pm

The perceived conflict between free speech and inclusion was put back on the news agenda yesterday, courtesy of the Annual Oration by the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, Professor Irene Tracey. After some seasonal musings about autumnal renewal and a bit of hyperbole for donors’ benefit about recent wondrous institutional achievements, Tracey attempted to appease students and staff still incensed about my controversial appearance at the Oxford Union in May.

Her chosen approach was the by-now usual gambit of academic managers everywhere — namely, to express simultaneous support both for free speech, and for those people whose feelings are upset by it. Also as usual, the second message had the rhetorical effect of completely undercutting the first.

Failing to note that the Union is an entirely separate entity to the University, Tracey obliquely referred to the furore surrounding my visit, saying: “I was deeply saddened to learn of the abusive and threatening language and behaviours that our trans community suffered this year. We should have done more to support them; rest assured lessons were learned.” She went on to announce that the University would be developing a “toolkit in consultation with students with top tips for how to navigate free speech” to make sure it “happens within the bounds of civility, intellectual rigour and the law”.

The Vice-Chancellor’s ostentatiously apologetic stance here seemed to confirm a series of recent claims made about her by the Oxford University LGBTQ+ Society President Amiad Diman. Diman was the self-styled leader of the protests against me in May, and at the time issued a potentially libellous statement on behalf of his student Society — the largest one in Oxford — falsely describing me as a “transphobic” speaker bringing a “campaign of hate and misinformation to Oxford”.

Yet last week he tweeted that he had met with Tracey and other members of senior management over the summer “to express my concern over the harm caused to the university’s trans+ community during April-June last year”. He continued: “I was delighted to see a real tone shift and change of minds among the senior leadership, in stark contrast from their rhetoric in Trinity term. I was told that the university’s made many mistakes then and it regrets it.”

Meanwhile, the Oxford Student reported this week that, as a result of Diman’s interventions over the summer, the university has just introduced the capacity for students to “declare their pronouns” on their records. Whether any manager has considered the impact of this policy on robust sex-based data collection was not recorded. And nor was there any news on whether senior managers have met with gender-critical or sex-realist university members recently, as they have apparently done with transactivists. Failing that, one might get the distinct sense that a narrow lobby group has disproportionate power in dictating university policy — something that donors tend not to be particularly thrilled about.

In fact, claims about the harms done during the period of my visit are wildly subjective at best. In May, Diman told the BBC that the LGBTQ+ Society had received “thousands of comments online” and that some of them were “very homophobic, very transphobic, hateful, threatening”. However, assuming this is true, there was no attempt, even by him, to suggest that the comments came from university members specifically.

Meanwhile, the Oxford LGBTQ+ Society has apparently surveyed its members and found that 64% of them feel that my visit “worsened the state of [their] mental health”. Personally speaking, my own mental health was not massively improved by the visit to Oxford either, so I can certainly sympathise — but, either way, I’m not sure that such impressionistic feelings are any measure of the true benefits of this sort of event.

Later on in Tracey’s speech, she said that the university was now “creating a series of discussions on challenging topics to showcase what engaging with different views and beliefs, in a courteous manner, can look like”. Yet, to my mind, my Union appearance was exactly that — a robust but courteous exchange of views on a challenging topic, and one which included intense scrutiny from an engaged and often critical student audience.

In fact, all the hostility and discourtesy came from the transactivists protesting, with or without superglue. If the university really wants tips about how to have a robust but civil debate about a controversial topic, it should probably ask the Oxford Union — or even better, ask me back. Professor Tracey: if you’re reading this, I’m available.


Kathleen Stock is an UnHerd columnist and a co-director of The Lesbian Project.
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Fafa Fafa
Fafa Fafa
9 months ago

KS is a very intelligent person but she still clings to the notion that universities are places where intelligent persons should go to in search of interacting with other intelligent persons. Universities are finished. Before it gets too late for them as well, their STEM sections should separate as institutes of real high learning and research, maybe called Institutes of Technology, and let the rest, the various “studies” and the soft sciences they grew out of, continue to call themselves universities, preening in High Stupid, imagining that they still matter.

J Bryant
J Bryant
9 months ago
Reply to  Fafa Fafa

Exactly.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
9 months ago
Reply to  Fafa Fafa

Top comment.

Alan Elgey
Alan Elgey
9 months ago
Reply to  Fafa Fafa

Prof Tracey would fit in to your IoT; she is a neuroscientist. (But married to a climate physicist.)

Stephen Follows
Stephen Follows
9 months ago
Reply to  Alan Elgey

How, one wonders, can a neuroscientist be so clueless about basic human biology?

Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
9 months ago
Reply to  Fafa Fafa

The STEM subjects have been corrupted by this stuff too.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
9 months ago
Reply to  Fafa Fafa

I genuinely feel the same way. I don’t think universities can be salvaged. I certainly don’t think taxpayers should have to support them. The science faculties should be turned into technical institutes – the trades faculties (Law, Social Work, Education, Commerce) should be taught by community colleges where they belong. Humanities should be pared down to the traditional areas (Literature, History, Philosophy) and should only admit students who are truly academic. A lot of budget should be sent to trades programs to give us the skilled trades we actually need. Finally the requirement for a university degree should be removed from every public sector job where it is not a technical necessity and public service entrance exams should be reintroduced.

Geraldine Kelley
Geraldine Kelley
9 months ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

Those entering public service entrance exams would need intensive coaching as most graduates and A level students today cannot write in sentences or construct an argument in an essay. I speak from experience in reading job applications!

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
9 months ago

That is the function of primary and secondary schools, or should be.
University is too late.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
9 months ago

Thats true.

Having tutored university students to try to teach them how to write an essay, most of the time its too difficult to inculcate the technique once adulthood is reached.

What they want is to get this ‘shared realization’ settled between the two of you:

“I give you money, you write my essay for me.”

Last edited 9 months ago by Dumetrius
Alan Bright
Alan Bright
9 months ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

“I give you money, you write my essay for me.”
OR
“I give you money, you give me a first-class honours degree”

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
9 months ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

I would most enthusiastically agree, despite myself having benefitted immensely from plenty of time at universities (mathematics and philosophy), but thankfully, decades ago. Unfortunately a new Labour government with Blair and Brown pulling the strings will, if anything, seek to expand the current university model and we can expect to see even those STEM subjects become corrupted.

Susan Scheid
Susan Scheid
9 months ago

Tracey is clearly one of all too many adults who have left the room. I watched the Oxford Union debate, and it was just as Dr. Stock described in her earlier Unherd article about it:

“These students are a largely untapped asset to the project of detoxifying the current discourse around identity politics. Thanks to their relative youth, they tend to be sensitive, curious, idealistic but not fanatical, and genuinely want to understand the world. But they also want to play — with ideas, with jokes, with each other. Many have sufficiently rebellious or anarchic instincts to shrink from blatant attempts to manipulate and guilt-trip them. They are sick of being imprisoned in other people’s shame, guilt and paranoia. All we have to do is set them free.“

Thank you, Dr. Stock, for continuing to fight the good fight. Please know that there are many of us out here who have your back.

Richard M
Richard M
9 months ago

The only toolkit trans-activists need to navigate Free Speech is a leaflet which says:

“People you disagree with also have free speech. That’s the whole point of it.”

They can refer to it every time they feel triggered.

Huw Parker
Huw Parker
9 months ago
Reply to  Richard M

COROLLARY: If being within earshot of civil and respectful arguments for opinions with which you disagree is liable to have a negative effect upon your mental health, it’s not the opinions that are the problem.

Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
9 months ago

In other words, the new vice-chancellor is very bad news. Talk about premature capitulation!

Frances Killian
Frances Killian
9 months ago

I read the report of the speech (in the press) idly and imagined it was talking about the tsunami of hate and threats of violence suffered by KS. I was astonished to realise the vice chancellor was referring to the harm her students were subjected to by being exposed to calm rational debate. I despair!

Albert McGloan
Albert McGloan
9 months ago

Perhaps universities should be starved of funds until they learn to ignore Amiad Dimans of this world?

Lizzie J
Lizzie J
9 months ago
Reply to  Albert McGloan

They already are. It’s funding season and my partner and I are studiously ignoring any calls from an Oxford number. Our past donations are a drop in the ocean, but if enough of us hold back it will make a difference.

Lou Davey
Lou Davey
9 months ago
Reply to  Lizzie J

Or you could answer, Lizzie, and tell them exactly why you won’t be donating?

Sid Allen
Sid Allen
9 months ago

Thanks very muck Kathleen…much appreciated as always

Alan Elgey
Alan Elgey
9 months ago

For goodness sake, Prof Tracey, teach your students how to think, not what to think. Still less, be taught by them what to think.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
9 months ago

People who go around pushing this idea of ‘cis women’ are already dangerous fanatics.
You could call them perverse men’s rights activists but the main thing is that they are aggressive if not downright vicious, and hate women who get in their way.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
9 months ago
Reply to  Tyler Durden

People who go around pushing this idea of ‘cis women’ are already dangerous fanatics.
They have to recognize that many women are only children.

Jo Atkins
Jo Atkins
9 months ago

Aggression and abuse always comes from the Trans activists.  The need for police at the Let Women Speak events proves this.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
9 months ago

If you don’t fear for our future when you look at how dominant the alumni of this shabby old school are in our public life, and then at how feeble-minded and childish the current generation of students are, then there is something seriously wrong with you.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
9 months ago

Professor Stock, you may remember me, I was one of the students, an American, present when you spoke at UEA a few years ago. I read all your articles on here. Keep up the ‘good fight,’ and enjoyable writing. — Frank

Last edited 9 months ago by UnHerd Reader
Nik Jewell
Nik Jewell
9 months ago

The two paragraphs in her speech are a mess of contradictions, unless, perhaps, she has no comprehension of what free speech is.
I guess she is just hoping that no more GCs are invited on her watch (and indicating that she’ll be doing everything in her power to prevent it happening).
Now, there’s a challenge 🙂

Richard Powell
Richard Powell
9 months ago

The initial press coverage of Irene Tracey was very positive. It’s a great pity she turns out to be highly suggestible and to lack either critical faculties or any real commitment to free speech. Still, Oxford is famously the home of lost causes. Let’s hope Deborah Prentice at Cambridge doesn’t prove a parallel disappointment.

Harry Child
Harry Child
9 months ago

What I never get from these type of articles is the sense of how large is the group of the so called LGBTQ ++++ at these universities as a % of the total student population. If it is less than 5% why is there so much attention paid to their views when 95% are getting on with their studies.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
9 months ago
Reply to  Harry Child

It is certainly less than 5%, but when you can turn the most basic institution, that of man and woman, upside down, think of what else in society you can turn over. The devil must be grinning from ear to ear about now.

Alan Bright
Alan Bright
9 months ago
Reply to  Harry Child

But I imagine some of the 95% would call themselves ‘allies’

Davy Humerme
Davy Humerme
9 months ago

When I read this I thought Tracey was just a tool of the blob with a PhD in something. The attempt to split the difference and go for the middle ground shows how out of touch she is. She doesn’t want to offend offence seekers. Anyway, as soon as I see the terms “toolkit” or “pathway” used outside the construction industry I want to retch. It’s a sign of a really ordinary mind if you can’t avoid using these ludicrous terms. And think you are solving a problem.

R Wright
R Wright
9 months ago

“Oxford LGBTQ+ Society has apparently surveyed its members and found that 64% of them feel that my visit “worsened the state of [their] mental health””

Our future leaders in action.

RM Parker
RM Parker
9 months ago

Professor Stock is a danger to nobody, not even the professionally hyperbolic (although they seem easily panicked by dissenting views, I don’t think anyone could seriously see that as dangerous
 could they?)

I was also amused by the term “trans+ community” – so Amiad Diman finally gives the game away: the L, G and B really are knocked down the ladder in the proposed New Order. Not as if they ever faced any discrimination, is it?

So, everyone is now to be defined in relation to trans. I suppose at least he’s honest, after a fashion. Good luck to the LGB Alliance (obviously a hate group, not being a stonewall diversity champion). What a $h1t$h0w.

Good luck, Kathleen, and best wishes to the decent transgender people just trying to get on with life, without being embarrassed by clowns like Diman and their corporate acolytes.

Last edited 9 months ago by RM Parker
Geraldine Kelley
Geraldine Kelley
9 months ago

My hesitant impression over the last 20 years is that the feminisation of all areas of the public arena has resulted in the current intolerance of free expression disguised as “being kind.”

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
9 months ago

I have to admit, I’ve always felt rather put out that I haven’t been declared an unperson yet. I mean, whose ox do I have to gore to be put on some kind of political undesirables list? I feel like I’m failing some vote of confidence here.

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
9 months ago

Just tell a transwoman that you won’t shag ‘her’ and you’ll be off into the dark zone faster than they update their list of pronouns.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
9 months ago
Reply to  Mike Downing

“Please calm down sir”

Andrew Daws
Andrew Daws
9 months ago
Reply to  Mike Downing

I wonder if Lawrence Fox would do the honours?

Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
9 months ago

I think the problem is that you are a right-wing hippie. It’s the left-wing hippies with the unorthodox views who get cancelled. They go after their own.

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
9 months ago

Being irritated with someone else’s opinion is not an assault on the person’s mental health. Generally speaking, I hate the current fashion of calling people we disagree with snowflakes, its usually a cheap shot. This time, however, its an accurate description.

Melissa Martin
Melissa Martin
9 months ago

Trans activists are like the nutter on the bus. I’m going to give Professor Tracey the benefit of the doubt & assume this was the equivalent of slowly moving away whilst smiling irenically and avoiding eye contact.

Emmanuel MARTIN
Emmanuel MARTIN
9 months ago

Maybe I am very courageaous, but I for sure don’t fear reading another article from Kathleen.

William Shaw
William Shaw
9 months ago

Censorship of free speech, even hateful and abusive speech, is always wrong.
All views should be out in the open.

Last edited 9 months ago by William Shaw
Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
9 months ago

But it’s not a mental disorder. Right.

Colorado UnHerd
Colorado UnHerd
9 months ago

Ah, Kathleen Stock: You are SO dangerous. The violent injury you have done to these obviously fragile (is it the cross-sex hormones?) young trans-addled minds is reprehensible. Or, more accurately, incomprehensible.
Honestly, if these students (and young trans activists more generally) can’t toughen up and grow up enough to understand that their disagreement with free speech does not make it hate speech, you’d think the adults in the room would do their jobs and help them mature. Obviously, too high a bar.
Keep being my favorite TERF terrorist. I and many others salute you.

Last edited 9 months ago by Colorado UnHerd
Lukasz Gregorczyk
Lukasz Gregorczyk
9 months ago

Dr Stock thank you for continuing being the bearer of the torch of reason!

Paul S
Paul S
9 months ago

Diman is behaving much as cult leaders tend to.

Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
9 months ago

Time to retake Oxford. Like DeSantis did at that university in Florida, with extreme prejudice they purged the wokies. They cut out DEI entirely; cut all grievance studies entirely. It’s a war folks and tho we hope to avoid bullets it is still a war and we need to *defeat* the wokies.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
9 months ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

Desantis is a small time bully who has managed to be humiliated by both Disney and Trump in the same cycle. Not sure you want to be following his example on anything…
As for “war”, it already happened and you lost, gramps.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
9 months ago

I get the feeling the trans fad is about to be displaced by people claiming the right to self-identity as having “mental health issues”.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
9 months ago

Does academic study reduce physical courage?

M Harries
M Harries
9 months ago

Oxford University is a laughing … Stock.

Ken Charman
Ken Charman
9 months ago

As usual nothing but perfectly bloody obvious common sense from Kathleen. Her point about data is important. Having been in charge of a project to digitise HR data covering rewards, benefits and pensions for over 150,000 employees at a global firm whose HQ is in the UK, I can say that both the gender rights lobby and the ethnicity lobby have no idea about the consequences of their campaigns on the important work that needs 1) accurate biological gender at birth data and 2) to scientifically refute that it is possible to accurately consistently, scientifically define ethnicity, especially as the Critical Race Theorists require it for their campaigning. Even to point these technical facts out in meetings where HR and legal are worst of all PR, are present is enough to provoke the mob. Self stated gender undermines actuarial calculations for pensions. Ethnicity data is unreliable. It has to be self stated as there are no objective, scientific tests, definitions vary by culture and geography, some countries forbid the collection of the data,.. yet we are confronted with a mob screaming for diversity and equality data. What should we do? Make it up? (This isn’t academic social science we can’t make it up). When will a grown-up take control of all this? The lunatics haven’t just taken control of the asylum and universities, they are imposing their will by denying the laws of nature.

Last edited 9 months ago by Ken Charman
Arkadian X
Arkadian X
9 months ago

Who was the name of the moderator on that night? Not Diman, was s/he/they?

Anyway, I am sorry that KS mental health dis not improve that night. I thought that what we saw on YT was quite good.

michaellucken1
michaellucken1
9 months ago

I seem to rember reading recently that Oxford were rated either at or near the bottom of rankings for free speech at universities.

Mark Goodhand
Mark Goodhand
9 months ago

Those of us who value liberty are making common cause with feminists against trans extremists, but I still can’t get too concerned about “robust sex-based data collection”.
Outside of medical contexts, where it may be important, the less sex-based data collection, the better.
The ideal is a society that treats each person as an individual, not a member of a favoured or disfavoured group.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
9 months ago
Reply to  Mark Goodhand

Yet here you are attacking “trans extremists”? Who exactly do you have common cause against? Or is it, as of course it is, you hate and fear all trans people despite never having met one?

Glyn R
Glyn R
9 months ago

We should stop referring to these centres as Universities and adopt the more appropriate Centres of Further Indoctrination.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
9 months ago
Reply to  Glyn R

Call them what you want, slick – I really don’t think anyone will care what a bunch of right wing nutters who aren’t qualified to clean the toilets at a university decides to call them.

m_dunec
m_dunec
9 months ago

.

Last edited 9 months ago by m_dunec
Boniface8th
Boniface8th
9 months ago

You do seem rather to be proving the point that the aggressive and abusive line comes from the Trans side of the argument.

Sue Sims
Sue Sims
9 months ago
Reply to  Boniface8th

Nice point. Probably best not to feed the trolls, though.

David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago

Later on in Tracey’s speech, she said that the university was now “creating a series of discussions on challenging topics to showcase what engaging with different views and beliefs, in a courteous manner, can look like”. Yet, to my mind, my Union appearance was exactly that 

I would read this positively. I can’t read her mind, but in her shoes I would be looking for a way forward which got all parties to buy into free speech. Courtesy accepts that discourse should not be abusive – but that’s not the same as restricting free speech. She may think your approach was a model of courtesy – but can hardly say that if her aim is to get buy in from all sides.

Tom Scott
Tom Scott
9 months ago

It’s like living in parallel universe, where supposedly intelligent people are talking gibberish.

A highly paid (and presumanly intelligent) vice chancellor making such a publicly accessible speech is beyond belief.

Sadly, this clearly illustrates the mental capacity of those on the selection committee.

Also, we see too often people on MSM being provided the oxygen to spout utter rubbish without challenge.

Last edited 9 months ago by Tom Scott
Cristina Bodor
Cristina Bodor
9 months ago

It is the impressionistic manner of appraisal of the world that make the expectation of intellectual rigour in the debate either naïve, or hypocritical. Does Prof Tracey truly expect rigour? The terms “ hurt”, “ safe spaces” etc come in contradiction with any pretence of rigour.

m_dunec
m_dunec
9 months ago

The vile abuse of brave gender critical women, only serves to demonstrate misogyny, and an inability to defend the transgender position. Over and over again.

Despite the abuse, more and more of us will continue to resist the trans ideology, and talented women like Kathleen Stock, will continue to be championed by those whom she represents. #SexMatters

Last edited 9 months ago by m_dunec
Diana King
Diana King
9 months ago

Great respect to you. After being unexpectedly hurled into a lava flow of unfounded criticism and vitriol for simply stating an unequivocal fact, you have stood in the breach, courageously defending rationality and scientific fact.
I don’t think you wanted to be here, but here you are, immovable defender of the facts.
My admiration is profound

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
9 months ago

Excellent article, as usual. I am disappointed that Irene Tracy has reacted like this – I had thought from her previous statements that she was on board with the importance of free speech and open enquiry at universities. For her to indulge in this strange, pseudo-sensitive PR-speak is worrying. I can only suspect that, like so many, she feels intimidated by this narrow lobby group (which probably does not represent most trans people nationally) and feels obliged to make gestures. Time will tell.

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
9 months ago

The answer to her question is “yes”, she is a danger to them, but she should be.

Stephen Follows
Stephen Follows
9 months ago

This Tracey seems as stupid as every other Tracey I’ve ever met.

Nanu Mitchell
Nanu Mitchell
9 months ago

Maybe a K***n?

Mark M Breza
Mark M Breza
9 months ago

Yes chemical hormones can change a persons gender .
Shocking one can even change the natural color of their hair !
It is not the medieval ages .
Can change a lot of things on a god born body.

Rochelle Wilson
Rochelle Wilson
9 months ago
Reply to  Mark M Breza

A female/grown girl/woman has every nucleated cell in her body with an XXchromosome.A male/boy/man has an XY chromosome in every nucleated cell. No number of hormone therapies, surgical procedures, or clothing/make-up etc etc can alter this fact. Human rights are for all, justice likewise should be; freedom of speech is for all,.
Birth Certificates are legal documents used for so many purposes. They should be as accurate as possible.

Ed Paice
Ed Paice
9 months ago

I think Arif Ahmed could usefully pay a visit to the Vice Chancellor. She doesn’t seem to be keeping up.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
9 months ago

Ms Stock and her ilk have made careers out of continuously attacking some of the most vulnerable members of society and encouraging others to join in with potentially lethal results for the victims.
Her constant whining about being called out on it is pathetic.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
9 months ago

The most vulnerable mebers of society are the white working class girls groomed by men of Pakistani ethnicity and black children murdered in London. I think there are sixteen towns with grooming scandals.
Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal – Wikipedia

0 0
0 0
9 months ago

Utter rubbish. Dr Stock is a brave and highly intelligent woman who calls out nut bars when she sees them. Good one DocStock

Martin Goodfellow
Martin Goodfellow
9 months ago

Oh dear! Your cliches about ‘vulnerable members of society’, and ‘lethal results’ are sickening and tiresome. How can you believe in such piffle? Kathleen’s defense of reason is an act of bravery in the face of insanity– transgenderism is a pernicious fantasy that needs exposing. It is you, and those like you who are the pathetic whiners. Hurry off now to your ‘safe’ place and comfort yourself before you hurl more venemous comments at those of whom you have no appreciation, and perhaps give a thought to those who have been mutilated and mentally misled by false ideology–your ‘vulnerable’ people.