oxford’s lgbtq+ students respond to vice-chancellor’s defence of homophobia

The head of Oxford University said, “My job isn’t to make you feel comfortable,” after students reported homophobic comments made by professors.

by Roisin Lanigan
05 September 2017, 5:28pm

Oxford University's Vice Chancellor Louise Richardson has ignored calls from students to apologise after she defended professors' who had expressed views "against homosexuality," telling the students, "My job isn't to make you feel comfortable".

Speaking at the Times Higher Education Summit yesterday, the VC said that despite "many conversations" with students complaining about homophobia from staff, she wouldn't reprimand professors. Richardson added: "Education is not about being comfortable. I'm interested in making you uncomfortable... If you don't like his views, you challenge them, engage with them, and figure how a smart person can have views like that. Work out how you can persuade him to change his mind," the BBC report.

In a statement on Facebook, the university's LGBTQ+ Society said they were "outraged" by Vice-Chancellor Richardson's comments at the Summit. "Such comments clearly indicate that she condones university staff members and academics expressing homophobic views towards students" they write, adding, "This is incredibly concerning considering Oxford University has one of the highest LGBTQ+ proportion of students in the UK."

"The LGBTQ+ Society understands and recognises the opportunity to debate varying opinions and how such discussion can have positive outcomes. However, The LGBTQ+ Society does not support the direct discrimination of minority to the detriment of student wellbeing. Such comments have no place in tutorials where students should be learning and discussing the content of their degrees."

Oxford's LGBTQ+ society also cited The 2010 Equality Act, which legally marks gender, sex, and sexual orientation as "protected characteristics," meaning it is against the law to discriminate against anyone on this basis, including in education settings. They point out that Oxford's own Equality Policy states that it is "committed to fostering an inclusive culture which promotes equality, values diversity and maintains a working, learning and social environment in which the rights and dignity of all its staff and students are respected," and argue that Vice Chancellor Richardson's comments are at odds with her own Equality Policy.

The statement went on to say: "The LGBTQ+ Society condemns the Vice-Chancellor's failure to recognise the real ongoing consequences of homophobia within her own university. University is a place where people are meant to thrive in their individuality and diversity, and we urge Richardson to review her comments. The LGBTQ+ Society alongside the LGBTQ+ Campaign therefore ask Vice-Chancellor Richardson to clarify and revise her position, send out an acknowledgement of this, and apologise for the harm that she has caused."

Both Oxford University and Louise Richardson are yet to comment on the backlash.

Oxford University