The head of Oxford University has sparked outrage after saying that LGBT+ students should put up with homophobic views being expressed by university staff.
Vice-chancellor Louise Richardson said it was “not her job” to make LGBT+ students feel comfortable at the world famous institution, which is home to and estimated 23,000 students.
Speaking at the Times Higher Education World Academic Summit in London on Monday (September 4), Prof. Richardson said she had dismissed the concerns of students who had spoken to her about the anti-gay views of some professors.
“I’ve had many conversations with students who say they don’t feel comfortable because their professor has expressed views against homosexuality,” she said.
“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’.”
She continued: “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 comments have provoked outrage from many Oxford students.
University student union president Kate Cole said: “Freedom of speech is not an excuse for homophobia.”
The Oxford University student union’s LGBT+ society said it was “angered and dismayed” by Prof. Richardson’s comments and called for an immediate apology.
The group also accused the Vice-Chancellor of breaking the University’s Equality Policy, which states that the institution will comply with the provisions of the Equality Act 2010.
In a letter to Prof. Rochardson seen by Attitude, Oxford city councillor Tom Hayes urged the Vicce-Chancellor to use her position of authority to “stand up to bigotry.”
“It’s simply not acceptable for students to face prejudiced tutors who will propagate hateful views and pass off discrimination as debate,” he wrote.
“The University has a responsibility to provide a supportive environment for all students.”
Oxford University and Prof. Richardson herself are yet to comment further on the incident.