Wednesday, 11 August 2010

St Andrews University 'Anti-Gay' (allegedly)



It was a tweet I saw yesterday morning which irked me enough to write this post.


St Andrews university has appointed Professor Roger Scruton as a quarter-time professional fellow in moral philosophy. He is due to take up his new role in the spring.

It appears the decision has not been welcomed by some of the student body, including the students' association, who are concerned by Professor Scruton's view on homosexuality which they claim could create an 'uncomfortable' and 'unwelcoming' atmosphere for gay students.

The professor stated homosexuality was 'not normal' in a newspaper report in 2007 and has argued this case in two of his books say the St Andrews Students' Association website.

The issue has been raised with high ranking university officials, including the principal Dr Louise Richardson, by the students' association and the director of representation Siena Parker.

"They listened to our arguments and replied that Scruton, like every other member of staff, will have to sign up to and stand by the university's equal opportunities agenda.

"They also defended every academic's right to freedom of speech," said the newly elected president of the students' association Owen Wilton. The association says it regrets the appointment, but stressed prospective students should not be deterred from choosing St Andrews as a place to study, adding that the university deserves its reputation for being diverse and inclusive.

Professor Scruton is no stranger to controversy - he was dropped as a Financial Times columnist in 2002, due to allegations that he offered to write pro-smoking articles in exchange for payment.

What is it with the gay lobby that they consider everyone who comes into contact with them must support their sexuality? Why do they think they're 'special'? They would be the first to rise in anger if I protested about having a gay lecturer.

Before anyone accuses me of homophobia let me say that a person's sexuality is their own business. It doesn't interest me in the least - never has and never will. What I do object to is this type of interference which is could inflict harm upon the university's reputation now that it has been given publicity.

Well done St Andrews for sticking to their principle that: "Universities, particularly where philosophical argument is concerned, must be the one place where differing and difficult views can be freely held, expressed and challenged without fear of discrimination. That is the essence of academic freedom."

People attend universities to broaden their knowledge and mix with those of differing opinions and this attempt to influence staff appointments shows the gay lobby's inability to accept that.
If those at St Andrews don't like it there are other universities who may be willing to accommodate their petty complaints, because that's what they are and made by those who should be applauding a university which employs the diverse. Instead they decide to take the 'victim' route because an academic openly happens to disagree with them on a particular matter.

If the students of St Andrews are so disappointed with the appointment of Professor Scruton, (with whom I'd love to debate his homosexuality beliefs), they could set up their own university full of gay-supporting staff. Just a thought.


22 comments:

JuliaM said...

This is from the New Righteous Dictionary, I suppose, where 'anti' is defined as 'not wholly and entirely supportive of and promoting'..?

subrosa said...

Exactly Julia.

William said...

Set up their own university? Do they happen to have a spare £200m on them?

You're right, of course. University is about freedom of expression and thought. Ideas can only flourish in an environment where there is no restrictions on what can be stated. Student unions always struggle to grasp this but they soon learn.

subrosa said...

I wouldn't know William but they do seem to be able to raise lots of money for lobbying etc.

Soon learn? I do hope so.

Oldrightie said...

'uncomfortable' and 'unwelcoming' atmosphere for gay students. Bit like, so I understand, the atmosphere afforded heterosexuals in gay meeting places?

subrosa said...

So I believe OR although I've no experience of these places. One thing's for sure, the gay lobby don't do themselves any favours behaving like this.

K said...

Not sure you have picked this up correctly. They have challenged his views, not his appointment.

“We recognise universities must protect freedom of speech, but we think Scruton’s views on sexuality are anachronistic and unsupportable.

“We look forward to challenging him in debate when he arrives on campus.”

That is the quote in the Herald.

Unless you are suggesting that his views should not be challenged I am not clear on the point being made.

In any case I think Roger Scruton's political views are far more controversial than his views on sexuality. He is very right wing who habitually refers to people living in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as "the Celts" and does not have a very high opinion of them!

I am sure St Andrews knew that he would be a controversial appointment - his appointment to any Scottish university could not be anything else frankly. Presumably that is why the appointment was made.

subrosa said...

I disagree with you K. Yes, that sentence is the end of their quote in the Courier too where is says exactly what I've typed above.

They obviously felt they could influence the senior management of the university regarding his appointment because they took their concerns to them.

If they were challenging his views, why not wait until he was in situ? Why go through the lengthy procedure to have interviews with senior staff including the principal? I very much doubt if they would have been granted a meeting with the principal etc if it was to challenge his views when he hadn't even begun his term.

Of course his views would have been taken into account by his employers. After all his wee job is as a moral philosophy lecturer.

The Courier is usually very accurate in its reporting of Dundee and St Andrews' universities. I doubt if they are any less in this instance.

(The Courier is the source at the end of the post).

Dark Lochnagar said...

You're right. I am getting pissed off with being called a racist, if I say I'm proud to be white or Homophobic, if I say I'm proud to Hetero. Labour PC Pish

subrosa said...

I don't think it's just labour who is PC these days DL, it seems to be everyone.

K said...

Unsurprisingly perhaps I disagree with your disagreement.

Students are perfectly entitled to question the intellectual coherence of someone appointed to the position that Roger Scruton has been apppointed to.

Intellectually, many people would argue that Scruton's beliefs about homosexuality are on a par with Glen Hoddle suggesting that disabled people were being made to pay for the sins of past lives. As I recall Glen Hoddle had to resign for that remark. Yet it was grounded in his rather naive understanding of the Bhuddist concept of Karma and so therefore he could argue that his was an established belief. Even so, some beliefs are so controversial as to be damaging.

The underlying issue for me is why St Andrews chose to appoint someone who was bound to be controversial due to the nature of his views. What is the purpose of his appointment? Is it really so that students can benefit from his teaching - or is it the academic equivalent of stirring the pot? We have to remember that many students at St Andrews are self-funders. Is this really what they (or rather their parents) are paying for?

Paulinus said...

Students are perfectly entitled to question the intellectual coherence of someone appointed to the position that Roger Scruton has been apppointed to.

...and the university has a right, nay, a duty, to tell the students that it's part of their education to cope with people whose views they might disagree with.

Intellectually, many people would argue that Scruton's beliefs about homosexuality are on a par with Glen Hoddle suggesting that disabled people were being made to pay for the sins of past lives.

Well, it's a view I suppose, but the analogy is a false one. He's merely stating a commonly held (indeed until relatively recently a near universally held) view that homosexuality is not the norm - ie is not normal. The norm is heterosexual attraction and behaviour - because something like 96% of the population behave that way. In statistical terms homosexual behaviour is two standard deviations (fnarr!fnarr!) or thereabouts from the mean. It doesn't mean persecuting homosexuals, it's just stating a fact.

Even so, some beliefs are so controversial as to be damaging.

I suspect if you got out more, I think you'd find it's a surprisingly common view. But most people are tolerant souls who let others get on with their lives without causing a fuss and certainly don't want to persceute anyone. Again, if university students can't cope with 'controversial' views without melting into a puddle of victimhood, they might want to think twice about the rigours of academic life.

The underlying issue for me is why St Andrews chose to appoint someone who was bound to be controversial due to the nature of his views.

Because, even as his detractors would admit, he's one of the most original and prolific philosophers of his age? You know - academic reasons.

We have to remember that many students at St Andrews are self-funders. Is this really what they (or rather their parents) are paying for?

They are paying for one of the best philosphers in the world. Prof Scruton, if you have ever read anything of his, which I doubt, is a believer in the market. If they feel so strongly, those students and their parents will take their bawbies elsewhere.

Somehow, I doubt it, though.

subrosa said...

Paulinus has answered your questions most eloquently K and I agree with every word.

Have a wee read of some of Professor Scruton's work. You may find it enlightening.

The students have no right to question the appointment of any staff unless someone knows it would affect their physical safety.

Can you imagine employees of any private business publicly challenging the management's employment of another director because they don't like some of his/her views?

subrosa said...

Thank you Paulinus to taking the trouble to write such an eloquent reponse to K. Greatly appreciated.

K said...

I fully agree that it is part of any person's education - whether or not they are students - to learn how to cope with people whose views they might disagree with.

Maybe that is something that some people here should reflect on?

I think if you read over my remarks you will see that I have expressed my views without being disparaging about other posters - and without making assumptions about them either.

subrosa said...

Oh I agree K. You're obviously suggesting other commenters haven't 'coped' with views with which they disagree.

Mmmm. I can see no disparaging remarks except for my own which said if the students were so upset then they have a choice and one could be to start their own university staffed by those of their choosing. Many people do that. We even do that in the provision of children's education.

I gave my opinion K and nowhere have I implied gay people are any unequal because that is not my opinion. It is those students who have questioned the university's management about this appointment who think themselves different to other students. If that wasn't so then the majority would have protested surely.

I think their action was wrong and completely out of keeping with the university ethic. You think it right. We'll have to agree to disagree.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

"...students should not be deterred from choosing St Andrews as a place to study..."

Not much sign of that, looking at the admissions numbers!

Also, be careful not to confuse the emanations of the "Students Association" with the actual views of the majority of students. In my day, the Union lot were a bunch of noisy attention-seekers who jumped on any passing bandwagon - then, it was probably the Vietnam war, though I can't be bothered to try and remember.

The only time we arose from our happy stupor was when we voted to disaffiliate from the National Union of Students, which caused apoplexy amongst the goodthinkers... heh heh. I doubt things have changed very much.

(NB The Yachtsman is a St. Andrews graduate from the dim and distant past...)

Paulinus said...

Subrosa

Those are kind words. Thank you.

subrosa said...

Weekend Yachtsman - aye, I was reading about that yesterday. Seems most of our universities are full tae burstin'.

So they're the politicians of the future then the Students Association? I won't confuse them in future.

Lucky man. I hope your years of beer and fish suppers resulted in a decent job. :)

Stewart Cowan said...

If these 'students' object to a moral philosopher saying that homosexuality is 'not normal,' I wonder if Maths students question their professors as to the legitimacy of the square of the hypotenuse equalling the sum of the squares of the other two sides.

The only way to stop this nonsense is to put 'gay rights' back in its box and bury it and hope that our society will recover.

We gave then an inch...

subrosa said...

My argument here Stewart is that they questioned the officials of the university rather than the individual, thereby protesting as his appointment.

Makes me believe that common sense is well and truly dead.

Nori Blake said...

The very acknowledgement of a race/sexual orientation/gender is faulted in itself. Gender changes throughout life, does sexual orientation. In terms of race it is more difficult to argue the same. One, however, should ask oneself what is the meaning of being black/white/whatever.

Furthermore, if one states that one is proud of being heterosexual, woman, man, white etc., one is already being silly, for these qualities do not seem to be of the kind that should lead to pride. In terms of the oppressed, such statements are, yet, justifiable. For centuries those people have been made ashamed and called unworthy. If one says, I am proud of being a man, white, heterosexual, what he is really saying, I am proud to be an oppressed. This clearly poses a moral question.

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