Oxford University students unable to cope with comments made by the school’s vice chancellor have been offered a safe space by their student union.
Professor Louise Richardson commented earlier this week that it wasn’t her job to shield students from controversial or politically correct opinions. She suggested that students upset with their tutors should seek to challenge their ideas instead of reporting them to university authorities. Her remarks provoked a furious backlash from students who want the university to censure professors who express views critical of the LGBT movement.
The Telegraph reported on Wednesday that the vice-chancellor’s comments were seen as an attack on the millennial generation of “special snowflake” students who are hypersensitive to criticism and opinions they disagree with.
“They don’t feel comfortable being in class with someone with those views,” said Richardson to the Times Higher Education World Academic Summit earlier this week.
“And I say, ‘I’m sorry, but my job isn’t to make you feel comfortable. Education is not about being comfortable,” she continued. “If you don’t like his views, you challenge them, engage with them, and figure [out] 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.”
Following Richardson’s comments, Oxford University’s student union offered support to any students traumatized by her remarks. Triggered students were invited to speak to a diversity officer or receive help from the peer support team to help them process their feelings.
Oxford students, academics and staff members signed an open letter strongly condemning Richardson for her remarks. They demanded an apology from her.
Here is our statement on the Vice-Chancellor’s comments on homophobic views. CN: mental health, suicide, homophobic views pic.twitter.com/ukjnUrh7fC
— OUSU LGBTQ Campaign (@OUSU_LGBTQ_Cam) September 4, 2017
“There is no excuse for Richardson’s equation of LGBTQ+ students’ human rights with an intellectual debate,” the letter said. “If it the best university in the world, Oxford should be leading the way for a model society which does not tolerate discrimination, instead of giving it the credibility of an academic debate.”