Students have raised their concerns about the recent appointment of a professor who has previously expressed controversial views on homosexuality.
Professor Roger Scruton, due to take up his place in the Philosophy department next spring, is one of Britain’s best known and distinguished philosophers. He is a Cambridge graduate and holds Honourary Doctorate degrees from Adelphi University, New York and Masaryk University, Brno and has received other honours from different universities across the globe.
Scruton currently holds a post as a visiting professor of aesthetics in the Philosophy Department at the University of Oxford. He has published over thirty books and has written for numerous publications while also holding visiting positions at Princeton, Stanford and Cambridge among many others.
Although his conservative views have garnered much criticism, Bryan Appleyard of The Sunday Times states, “There are few more valuable thinkers in Britain – or indeed, the world – today.”
Despite his credentials, students at St Andrews have raised their concerns regarding his open views on homosexuality. In a newspaper report in 2007, the Professor claimed that homosexuality was “not normal” and has further argued this case in two of his books.
The issue was raised with the Students’ Association who claimed that it would create would create an “uncomfortable” and “unwelcoming” atmosphere for gay students. Backed by the President of the Students’ Association, Owen Wilton and the Director of Representation, Siena Parker, it was brought to the attention of the Head of School, the Proctor and the Principal.
“We recognise that universities must protect freedom of speech, but we think that Scruton’s views on sexuality are anachronistic and unsupportable,” stated a joint statement from the Director of Representation and the students’ body, adding “We look forward to challenging him in debate when he arrives on campus.”
Siena Parker added that “Whilst I recognise that it is our duty to protect freedom of speech, I would like to exercise mine by saying that his arguments about homosexuality are contemptible and unacceptable in modern society,”
A statement from the university has said, “We are enormously proud of our record as a progressive employer and utterly committed to providing a work and study environment free from discrimination.
“Like all members of staff, Professor Scruton will be expected to abide by our equal opportunities and anti-discrimination policies. “Universities, however, 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.”