A law student who said women have vaginas and are not as physically strong as men is being investigated by Abertay University.
Disciplinary action is being taken against Lisa Keogh, 29, over “offensive” and “discriminatory” comments that she made during lectures at the Dundee-based university.
The mature final-year student told the Times she 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.
At first mum-of-two Ms Keogh said she thought emails from Abertay classmates accusing her of being transphobic were “a joke”. She now fears she will be expelled before graduating.
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.”
Freedom of speech
Ms Keogh added she didn’t mean to offend but take part in a debate.
“I thought there was no way that the university would pursue me for utilising my legal right to freedom of speech,” she said.
“I didn’t deny saying these things and told the university exactly why I did so.
“You have got to be able to freely exchange differing opinions otherwise it’s not a debate.”
Joanna Cherry QC, the SNP MP for Edinburgh South West and deputy chairwoman of the Lords and Commons joint committee on human rights, branded the action taken as farcical.
Cherry has contacted Abertay asking how it protected student rights to freedom of speech under 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’.”
Keogh also claims she was muted by a lecturer during a video seminar when she raised safety concerns about trans women taking part in mixed martial arts fights.
She added: “I was abused and called names by the other students, who told me I was a ‘typical white, cis girl’.”
The university’s misconduct policy includes “using offensive language” or “discriminating against gender reassignment” – with expulsion the highest penalty.
Abertay University said it does not comment on disciplinary matters but said freedom of speech is “strongly encouraged” by the university.
We are disappointed by inaccurate press reports and comments relating to freedom of speech at Abertay.
To be absolutely clear, freedom of speech within the law is not only permitted at Abertay but is strongly encouraged. 1/2
— Abertay University (@AbertayUni) May 15, 2021
A statement from Abertay said: “To be absolutely clear, freedom of speech within the law is not only permitted at Abertay but is strongly encouraged.
“All universities should be places where controversial, challenging or even upsetting issues can be debated in a constructive and collegial way.
“The university does not comment on student disciplinary cases and is duty bound to investigate any complaints received.”