Tom Slater

Lisa Keogh and the myth of campus censorship

Lisa Keogh and the myth of campus censorship
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The next time someone tells you campus censorship is a myth, made up by right-wing tabloids and leapt upon by a Tory government keen to wage a ‘culture war’ against the left, tell them to Google ‘Lisa Keogh’.

Keogh is a 29-year-old law student at Abertay University in Dundee. She is currently being investigated by the university for the crime of saying that women have vaginas and men are stronger than women. For all the naysaying on the left, campus censorship is now apparently so extensive that stating widely accepted facts is a risky business.

As the Times reports, Keogh is facing disciplinary action over ‘offensive’ and ‘discriminatory’ comments that she made during lectures and seminars. These include saying that women are born with female genitalia and that ‘the difference in physical strength of men versus women is a fact’. Such heresies upset her younger classmates, who complained to the university.

Keogh also claims she was muted during a seminar for suggesting that trans women, given their physical advantages, shouldn’t be able to compete against women in mixed martial arts. ‘I made the point that this woman had testosterone in her body for 32 years and, as such, would be genetically stronger than your average woman’, she said. ‘I wasn’t being mean, transphobic or offensive. I was stating a basic biological fact.’ She also objected to other students suggesting that ‘all men are rapists’.

When Keogh was informed that she was under investigation, she thought it was a joke: ‘I thought there was no way that the university would pursue me for utilising my legal right to freedom of speech.’ But that is precisely what is happening. Abertay’s definition of misconduct includes ‘using offensive language’, and the ultimate punishment is expulsion. Students have been expelled at other universities for the crime of expressing their opinions. Felix Ngole, a Christian social-work student at Sheffield, was thrown off his course in 2016 for saying on Facebook that homosexuality is a sin.

There are no bigger pariahs on campus today than women who dare to believe in biological sex. Selina Todd, a trans-sceptical academic at Oxford, had to be given a security detail last year. Rosa Freedman, a professor at the university of Reading, found her office door covered in urine after she criticised proposed changes to gender-identification laws. And Jo Phoenix, a professor of criminology at the Open University, was no-platformed at Essex university in 2019. She was due to give a talk about the issues around putting trans women in women’s prisons.

We can only hope that common sense will prevail in Lisa Keogh’s case. Joanna Cherry, SNP MP for Edinburgh South West and deputy chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, has written to Abertay demanding to know what steps are being taken to protect students’ rights. Surely, expelling a young women for the crime of saying that biological sex is real is a PR blunder beyond even the wokest of university administrators. But, then again, common sense went out of fashion on campus a long time ago.