Oxford student union offers emotional ‘support’ for those affected by vice-Chancellor’s ‘snowflake’ comments

The Telegraph

Oxford University students have been offered emotional “support” by their student union ​if they were adversely affected by their vice-Chancellor’s comments that it is not her job shield them from controversial opinions.

Professor Louise Richardson provoked a furious backlash when she said that students who are upset with their tutors for expressing views against homosexuality should “challenge” them, rather than reporting their tutors to university authorities.

The vice-Chancellor’s comments are likely to be seen as a veiled attack on today’s generation of “snowflake” students who are seen as over-sensitive and quick to take offence. Prof Richardson said she has had “many conversations” with students who are unhappy that their tutors have express views that are “against homosexuality”.

« They don’t feel comfortable being in class with someone with those views, » she told 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 said. “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. »

On Tuesday Oxford University’s student union urged anyone who is affected by the comments to discuss their concerns with Welfare and Equal Opportunities officer or the peer support team.

 The university’s LGBTQ+ campaign said they were “angered and dismayed” by the comments which “appear to indicate support for tutors expressing homophobic views to their students”.

Hundreds of Oxford students, academics, staff and alumni signed an open letter saying they “strongly condemn” Prof Richardson’s comments, as they called on her to apologise.

“Homophobia is not an ‘opinion’, and the human rights and dignity of LGBTQ people are not up for debate,” the letter said.

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The petition also said that her remarks could make gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students feel “unsafe” at university, and could discourage LGBT teenagers from applying to Oxford.

“It is alarming to see any form of harassment being described as merely an opinion by a respected public figure,” the letter said.

“There is no excuse for Richardson’s equation of LGBTQ+ students’ human rights with an intellectual debate.”

“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.”