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Abertay student cleared of wrongdoing after ‘women have vaginas’ free speech row

Lisa Keogh is suing Abertay University
Lisa Keogh is suing Abertay University

A law student who was investigated after making “offensive” comments including “women have vaginas” has been cleared of all wrongdoing.

Lisa Keogh was reported by classmates at Abertay University following comments made during a debate, including saying “the difference in physical strength of men versus women is a fact”.

Fellow law students said her comments were offensive and discriminatory, which led to a misconduct investigation against Ms Keogh, 29, and a row over the university’s free speech stance.

Abertay free speech vaginas
Lisa Keogh.

Now Ms Keogh has received a letter from the chair of the student disciplinary board  informing her that all the complaints against her have been dismissed.

The university have also issued a statement, saying Ms Keogh was not subject to disciplinary action for expressing so-called ‘unacceptable opinions’ about gender identity, or any other topic.

They insisted the investigation concerned complaints relating to Ms Keogh’s behaviour in class.

They have also reiterated the university’s stance on the importance of upholding lawful free speech.


Ms Keogh said: “Yesterday I received a letter from Abertay University dismissing all the complaints made against me.

“This is a victory.

“As overjoyed as I am about this decision, I am saddened that I went through this at such a critical time in my university career.

“The very end of my period at Abertay is now tarnished with these bad memories and I worry that my final grades will have been affected by this.

“I will not feel comfortable attending any graduation event.

“Although Abertay has decided I’m innocent of all charges, the ordeal I have been through has been a punishment in itself.”

Investigation findings

A letter sent to Ms Keogh said the allegations made against her “were not in relation to personal opinions but to alleged behaviour in class”.

It said the accusation against her was as follows: “Made inappropriate comments during class discussions which could be construed as discriminatory and continued to make offensive comments and behaved in a disrespectful manner, despite being made aware that your behaviour was harmful to others and despite reminders about the university’s policies related to conduct”.

Abertay University.

However, it noted that some video and chat recordings of class discussions, which had been held online, were not available for review.

The letter concluded that “the board found no evidence that you had discriminated against another member of the university”.

‘Modern day witch-hunt’

After the investigation, Ms Keogh said she still believes the row centred on her opinions.

“Although Abertay denies this, it was my gender critical views that led to me being investigated by the university and this should never have happened,” she said.

“I was targeted because of my gender critical views – it was a modern day witch hunt.

“I hope that Abertay University can learn from this experience and not put other students through a similar ordeal just for voicing their opinions.

“While I may no longer be a student at the university, it is still vital to me that others have the opportunity to take part in lively open debates without worrying about being punished afterwards.

“If Abertay just carries on as before, this journey will have been for no good reason.”

Lisa Keogh.

“The university should put a process in place that will enable it to judge what complaints need to be investigated and which ones can be dismissed immediately because they’re vexatious and politically motivated.”

Free Speech Union

Ms Keogh’s case was taken up by the Free Speech Union and sparked a debate last month on the lines between freedom of speech and discrimination, which resonated across the UK.

Toby Young, general secretary of the Free Speech Union, said: “I’m delighted that the complaints against Lisa have been dismissed.

“It should have been obvious that the complaints against her were due to her gender critical views, not the manner in which she expressed them.

“In a seminar on gender, feminism and the law there should be room for a range of views, from militant trans activism to traditional feminism.”

Ms Keogh also had the support of MP Joanna Cherry QC, who said she has faced abuse after clashing SNP colleagues on transgender issues.

Joanna Cherry.

Ms Cherry said: “Lisa should never have been put through this ordeal in the first place and the university should review its free speech and equality policies to make sure that future students are not subject to the stress of spurious complaints nor discriminated against, harassed or victimised for their beliefs.”

‘Legally obliged to investigate’

But a spokesman for Abertay said the university is legally obliged to investigate all complaints.

The disciplinary board met with Ms Keogh on Monday to consider a “single element of an initially complex complaint”.

The spokesman added: “Under normal circumstances the university does not comment on student disciplinary cases, however as the student involved in this case has chosen to comment publicly we feel it is necessary for us to do so on this occasion.

“Contrary to misleading statements by some commentators who view this as a case about gender identity, Lisa Keogh was not subject to disciplinary action for expressing so-called ‘unacceptable opinions’ about gender identity, or any other topic.

“As previously stated, our code of student discipline does not constrain lawful free speech, but does cover student behaviour.

“The University is committed to upholding freedom of speech on campus and we will continue to actively encourage open and challenging debate at Abertay.”

Last month the principal of Abertay defended the university’s stance on free speech in the wake of the row.

Professor Nigel Seaton said the university would not comment on a disciplinary investigation but did not in any way “stifle” controversial or challenging debate.