UK

Law student hits back as formal disciplinary action over gender debate

A law student has slammed her university for launching disciplinary action against her ‘for pointing out that women are born with reproductive organs’.

Lisa Keogh, 29, was reported to chiefs at University of Abertay by her classmates following a seminar in which she ‘women have vaginas’ and are ‘not as strong as men’.

During a seminar on gender, feminism, Ms Keogh said women are born with female genitals and transwomen should not be able to compete against women in mixed martial arts because of their superior strength.

Following the debate, in which Ms Keogh claims she was muted by her lecturer, the mature student said she was met with a flurry of abuse from her classmates. 

The fourth-year student and mother-of-two has been under investigation since April 16 for misconduct but could now be reprimanded or expelled after the Student Disciplinary Panel referred her case to the Student Disciplinary Board.

Lisa Keogh (pictured), 29, who studies law at Abertay University in Dundee was reported to university chiefs after she said women were not as physically strong as men

Ms Keogh, a member of the Free Speech Union, said she was ‘frustrated and disappointed’ that she would have to face a formal disciplinary hearing.

‘This has been hanging over me for over a month and it’s been extremely stressful, particularly as it’s coincided with my final law exams.

‘My comments in class weren’t intended to offend or discriminate against anyone – I was just expressing what I thought of as a mainstream point of view and ultimately my opinion.

‘Abertay says it believes in free speech and defends the right of students to express their views on a range of controversial issues without being penalised. Why, then, have I been put through this ordeal simply for stating my opinion? 

‘Pointing out that women are born with reproductive organs is now something you cannot say because it’s thought to be discriminatory against men who identify as women. 

‘I understand that Abertay felt it had no choice but to investigate these complaints, but I thought the university would exercise a bit of common sense and conclude there was no case to answer. Instead, it has decided to extend the investigation.’

The mature student was reported to university chiefs by her classmates after she said that women were not as physically strong as men

The mature student was reported to university chiefs by her classmates after she said that women were not as physically strong as men

The University of Abertay disputes Ms Keogh’s claim that it is a matter of freedom of speech, but would not comment on what the reason for the disciplinary action was.

MailOnline understands however that the case may refer to other ‘behavioural’ aspects of the Code of Student Discipline which covers everything from minor anti-social behaviour to harassment of other university members.

 Ms Keogh added: ‘Even if I’m exonerated, that won’t mean free speech is alive and well at Abertay. What people who haven’t been through one of these investigations don’t understand is that the process is the punishment.’

‘I’m hopeful that I will be awarded the law degree that I’ve worked so hard for at the end of this ordeal, but the fact that it’s been allowed to drag on for such a long time sends a chilling message to other women who don’t go along with the prevailing campus orthodoxy.

‘If you think transwomen shouldn’t be allowed to compete against biological women because of their superior physical strength, or that transwomen shouldn’t be able to share women’s safe areas, you better keep your opinion to yourself. Saying that in class – even a class on gender, feminism and the law – may land you in hot water.’

Ms Keogh has been 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 investigation as farcical.

A spokesperson for Abertay University said: ‘Under normal circumstances, the University does not comment on student disciplinary cases, however it has become necessary to correct inaccurate claims and reporting.

‘To be clear, all Abertay students are free to express their views on campus, as long as this is not done in an intolerant or abusive way which would breach our Code of Student Discipline.

‘Press reporting and social media commentary around this case has centred around gender issues and statements such as “women have vaginas” and “men have penises”, which are lawful statements and would categorically not lead to any University misconduct investigation, if expressed on campus in a reasonable manner.

‘Our Code of Student Discipline does not police freedom of speech or the nature of views put forward during classroom discussion or debate.

‘It exists to provide a framework within which disruptive, aggressive or abusive behaviour that makes fair and robust debate or classroom learning impossible can be identified and stopped.

‘We believe that all universities should uphold freedom of speech within the law and we are proud that Abertay is a place where difficult and controversial debate can take place within an academic environment.

‘Scottish universities are required by law to investigate all complaints, whether by students, staff or members of the public.

‘We are deeply saddened by the online abuse that has been aimed at our students and staff members as a direct result of the misreporting of this case in some sections of the press and conjecture on social media.’


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