Terence Kealey sparks university sexism row

University students

The Buckingham University vice-chancellor suggested that ‘curvy students’ were a perk of a college lecturer’s job

BY Tim Edwards LAST UPDATED AT 12:35 ON Thu 24 Sep 2009

A senior academic has been accused of sexism and encouraging sexual harassment after he contributed to an item in Times Higher Education about the supposed "seven deadly sins of academia".

Terence Kealey, vice-chancellor of Buckingham University, writing the section on 'lust', noted wryly: "Normal girls... will abjure their lecturers for the company of their peers, but most male lecturers know that, most years, there will be a girl in class who flashes her admiration and who asks for advice on her essays. What to do?"

Kealey's advice is to "Enjoy her! She's a perk... she will flaunt you her curves. Which you should admire daily to spice up your sex, nightly, with the wife." However, "as in Stringfellows, you should look but not touch".

Outrage was swift in coming. Olivia Bailey, the National Union of Students' women's officer, said: "I am appalled that a university vice-chancellor should display such an astounding lack of respect for women. Regardless of whether this was an attempt at humour, it is completely unacceptable for someone in Terence Kealey's position to compare a lecture theatre to a lap-dancing club."

Kealey may count himself lucky that he doesn't work in an American academic institution. The current row recalls a debate over academic sexism in the United States in 2005 when Laurence Summers, then President of Harvard, floated a theory as to why women are under-represented in tenured positions in science and engineering.

After claiming long working hours and discrimination were not an issue he said, "There are issues of intrinsic aptitude, and particularly of the variability of aptitude". Despite a liberal use of provisos and caveats in expounding his theory, he was forced to step down in 2006 after months of criticism.

An unrepentant Kealey said his item was meant to be humourous: "Employing humour to highlight the ways by which people try to resolve the dissonance between what is publicly expected of them and how they actually feel... reaches back to the origins of humour itself... I'm not sure I'm wrong."

Kealey may nonetheless wish he had settled for one of the other six sins in the THE item: sartorial inelegance, procrastination, snobbery, arrogance, complacency or pedantry. · 

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