Oxford

Oxford vice-chancellor criticised over homosexuality comments

Louise Richardson
Image caption Louise Richardson said it was not her job to make students feel comfortable

Students have called for the head of Oxford University to apologise for defending professors expressing views "against homosexuality".

Vice-chancellor Louise Richardson said she had had "many conversations" with students uncomfortable with the attitudes of university staff.

She said she told them: "My job isn't to make you feel comfortable."

University Student Union president Kate Cole said: "Freedom of speech is not an excuse for homophobia."

A senior city councillor also condemned the vice-chancellor's comments.

The student union's LGBTQ+ Campaign said it was "angered and dismayed" by Prof Richardson's comments and she should apologise.

Oxford University has been contacted for a comment and has yet to respond.

'Hateful views'

On Twitter, Ms Cole added: "[I'm] absolutely devastated to hear [Louise Richardson's] comments.

"There is a whole community of people fighting against this and my heart goes out to every student who has fought the good fight.

"We will not stand for this and I promise we will do all in our power to call this out."

Oxford city councillor for community safety Tom Hayes said he had written to Prof Richardson to condemn her comments.

He said: "It's simply not acceptable for students to face prejudiced tutors who will propagate hateful views and pass off discrimination as debate."

Speaking in London at the Times Higher Education World Academic Summit on Monday, Prof Richardson said students did not have a right not to be offended.

'Engage with them'

She added: "I've had many conversations with students who say they don't feel comfortable because their professor has expressed views against homosexuality.

"They don't feel comfortable being in class with someone with those views.

"And I say, 'I'm sorry, but my job isn't to make you feel comfortable. 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."

In a Facebook page the Oxford University Student Union LGBTQ + Campaign group said: "[Her comments] appear to indicate support for tutors expressing homophobic views to their students."

Among critical posts on Twitter, historian Charlotte L Riley said: "I can't believe that she's willing to admit she's had 'many conversations' w/ students whose professors say homophobic things. That's AWFUL."

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