The head of the University of Oxford has stunned students by insisting it is not her job to stop homophobia within the university.
The shocking comments come from Professor Louise Richardson, the vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford and one of the most respected university bosses in the country.
Professor Richardson was speaking in London at the Times Higher Education World Academic Summit when she made the comments.
According to the BBC, she said: “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. It is difficult, but it is absolutely what we have to do.”
Professor Richardson did not say if she similarly believes the onus is on black students to ‘prove’ to racist professors that they are wrong.
The comments have been met with condemnation from the university student union’s LGBTQ Campaign, which urged her to rethink her statement.
The group warned that her stance could be a violation of the Equality Act, as “tutors are directly in charge of admissions and any that harbour homophobic beliefs could be resistant to admitting LGBTQ+ students”.
A statement said: “The Oxford SU LGBTQ+ Campaign is angered and dismayed by Vice-Chancellor Richardson’s comments.
“These appear to indicate support for tutors expressing homophobic views to their students, as professor Richardson believes that students do not have a right to be offended and must take on the responsibility of challenging their tutors on such matters.
“Whilst we recognise that individuals are entitled to personal views and opinions, we see no way in which these are relevant to an academic context, and believe that the expression of such views has detrimental effects which go far beyond making students feel ‘uncomfortable’.
“The University’s Equality Policy states that it will comply with the Equality Act 2010, which explicitly marks gender, sex and sexual orientation as protected characteristics.
“In addition to this, the Policy states that ‘all academic staff should promote an inclusive research and learning environment’ and that the University will ‘seek to embed equality in all its activities’, which cannot be the case if homophobic views are rendered acceptable.
“In expecting students to challenge and engage with views against homosexuality in a tutorial context, the Vice-Chancellor inhibits their ability and right to engage undisturbed with the academic matters which should be at the heart of a class.
“This reinforces the idea that LGBTQ+ students are only welcome in academia should they express their identities quietly, and fosters a climate where LGBTQ+ individuals are academically disadvantaged.”
It adds: “Indicating that homophobia can be acceptable on such a public platform spreads the message that Oxford is a place where LGBTQ+ students are not valued, and are expected to maintain academic excellence whilst navigating the additional challenge of defending their identities.
“We are dismayed that the Vice-Chancellor has been approached by students seeking help, only to dismiss their concerns as being overly sensitive.
“This is hardly the conduct one would expect in an individual tasked with ensuring that all members of this University are able to thrive.
“These attitudes are a failure to recognise the very real impact of homophobic views on both academic success and personal well being, and we hope that she, and others, will consider the issue with more nuance in future.”
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