A piece in today’s Times:
A law student who said that women have vaginas and are not as physically strong as men is being investigated by her university.
Disciplinary action is being taken against Lisa Keogh, 29, over “offensive” and “discriminatory” comments that she made during lectures at Abertay University, Dundee.
The mature student was reported by younger classmates after she said women were born with female genitals and that “the difference in physical strength of men versus women is a fact”. The complaints have prompted a formal investigation into her conduct.
Keogh, a final-year student, fears that any sanction could end her dream of becoming a human rights lawyer. Her case is being backed by Joanna Cherry QC, the SNP MP for Edinburgh South West and deputy chairwoman of the Lords and Commons joint committee on human rights, who described the situation as farcical.
Keogh was astonished to receive an email accusing her of transphobic and offensive comments during seminars on gender feminism and the law. “I thought it was a joke,” she said. “I thought there was no way that the university would pursue me for utilising my legal right to freedom of speech.”
She was accused of saying women were the “weaker sex” and classmates were “man-hating feminists” when one student suggested that all men were rapists and posed a danger to women. [J4MB emphasis]
“I didn’t deny saying these things and told the university exactly why I did so,” she said. “I didn’t intend to be offensive but I did take part in a debate and outlined my sincerely held views. I was abused and called names by the other students, who told me I was a ‘typical white, cis girl’. You have got to be able to freely exchange differing opinions otherwise it’s not a debate.”
Keogh claims that she was muted by her lecturer in a video seminar when she raised concerns about a trans woman taking part in mixed martial arts bouts. “I made the point that this woman had testosterone in her body for 32 years and, as such, would be genetically stronger than your average woman,” she said.
“I wasn’t being mean, transphobic or offensive. I was stating a basic biological fact. I previously worked as a mechanic and when I was in the workshop there were some heavy things that I just couldn’t lift but male colleagues could.”
The university’s definition of misconduct includes “using offensive language” or “discriminating against gender reassignment”. Punishment can be as harsh as expulsion.
Keogh, a mother of two, fears for her future. “I don’t come from a legal background and have worked incredibly hard to get to where I am,” she said.
“I’m worried that my chance of becoming a lawyer, and making a positive contribution, could be ended just because some people were offended.”
She believes that generational differences contributed to the episode. “Those girls fresh out of high school who accused me are training to be lawyers” she said. “There are no trigger warnings in a courtroom. The judge isn’t going to whisper softly or excuse them from listening to things they might not want to hear.”
Cherry confirmed that she had written to Abertay asking what steps it had taken to protect student rights, which are protected by the European Convention on Human Rights.
She said: “Ms Keogh is being subjected to a disciplinary procedure in which the ultimate sanction is expulsion, for stating opinions based on biological fact and objecting to sweeping statements such as ‘all men are rapists’.”
Abertay University said that it did not comment on disciplinary matters.
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