Kathleen Stock, a philosophy professor who resigned from a UK university amid accusations of transphobia, has found a new job at a nascent university that prizes “free thought”.
“Delighted to be invited to be a Founding Faculty Fellow of the University of Austin, a new initiative announced today by @bariweiss alongside several other stellar individuals,” Ms Stock announced on Twitter. “I accepted with alacrity. It’s an exciting looking project, focused on free inquiry.”
Ms Stock had previously taught at the University of Sussex in England. But her controversial public comments on gender identity – including saying “the claim ‘trans women are women’ is a fiction” – angered many students, who demanded her removal in a series of protests. The university refused to fire her, but Ms Stock eventually quit.
“This has been an absolutely horrible time for me and my family,” the professor – who says she is not transphobic – said last month. “I’m putting it behind me now. On to brighter things soon, I hope.”
For Ms Stock, that “brighter thing” appeared to arrive on Monday, when a group of like-minded intellectuals unveiled the University of Austin, a still-in-formation school in Texas devoted to “the fearless pursuit of truth”.
“The reality is that many universities no longer have an incentive to create an environment where intellectual dissent is protected and fashionable opinions are scrutinised,” wrote the university’s founding president, Pano Kanelos. “We are done waiting for the legacy universities to right themselves. And so we are building anew.”
Also involved in the project are a number of other public intellectuals who feel victimized by “woke” censorship, including Bari Weiss, a former New York Times editor who resigned amid what she called “bullying by colleagues”.
On Monday, Ms Weiss excitedly announced that Ms Stock would be among the school’s founding faculty members.
“This university will welcome witches who refuse to burn,” she tweeted.
Critics, however, have called the school a vanity project for well-connected media figures, and are dubious of the oppression they’ve supposedly faced.
“People who have the luxury of shouting, ‘I am being silenced!’ from the nation’s op-ed pages and university lecterns are, by definition, not actually being silenced,” The Independent’s Noah Berlatsky wrote in one opinion piece.
The university is still very much in the idea phase. It is not yet accredited, and does not yet have a physical campus. As Ms Stock accepted her new position, she clarified that she is not literally going anywhere.
“PS I should add to avoid confusion – this doesn’t mean I’m moving to Austin,” she tweeted. “And it’s not a full-time role. Just getting involved in various ways from a UK base.”
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