My name is Lisa Keogh and I am a mum of 2 young boys. It has always been my dream to become a lawyer and I started studying for my LLB in law at Abertay in Dundee in 2017. I knew this would be difficult with 2 young children, but I was determined to make it work.
The first 3 years were challenging, but I kept my head down and got through it. I was very much looking forward to qualifying and working in my dream profession.
Unfortunately, my dreams turned into a nightmare earlier this year just before my final submissions and exams with this nightmare only ending shortly after my final exam.
Gender and Feminism and Human Rights
I had enrolled in the modules ‘Gender, feminism and the law’ and ‘Human Rights’. Part of these modules were to discuss topical issues such as gender and transgender issues, surrogacy, and contraception.
Unexpectedly, on April 16th 2021 I received an email from the university stating that I had made ‘inappropriate’ comments and that I was to be the subject of disciplinary action and I was invited to a formal meeting to discuss the issue.
The ‘inappropriate’ comments which led to the disciplinary process were me stating during open discussion in which students were invited to give their opinion that, “women have vaginas” and “not all men are rapists”. I also challenged the fact that biological men should not be allowed to compete in close contact sports with women as this is a safety concern due to men going through male puberty. I did not deny that I had said these things. I was also offered a chance to apologise for such comments which I of course declined. Aside from the fact that I was in university module where freedom of thought and topical debate is actively encouraged, I believed that I had a right to express my personal opinion on these matters under my right of free speech and freedom of expression.
Changing the allegations
Following this meeting, Abertay decided that my views were in breach of their disciplinary guidelines and would press ahead with a full investigation. I was advised that if I were found ‘guilty’ I faced expulsion and I could lose the degree that I had sacrificed so much for and was so close to achieving.
The university changed the allegations against me from ‘inappropriate comments’ to ‘inappropriate behaviour’ mid-way through the investigation. So, it was not about what I had said anymore, but the ‘tone’ in which I said it. I do not accept this.
After two long months, during which I was offered no support, the University concluded that I was not in breach of disciplinary guidelines, and no further action would be taken. These two months were terrible for me. I had to try and study through the stress while also still being a mother to my children. I could think of nothing else. I did not sleep during this time, and I lost friends due to my opinions. It was hard to keep going thinking it would all be for nothing, and I had wasted 4 years of my life all because someone was upset by views. Ultimately, I was scared.
Legal advice and action
I have taken legal advice and the University is in breach of the Equality Act 2010. My beliefs, which I believe are completely legitimate are a protected characteristic under the Equality Act. I intend to raise an action for damages for the stress and inconvenience they have caused me. I also believe the case may have wider implications for freedom of speech in this country, which I believe is vitally important.
I believe that Universities have an obligation to protect their students in exercising their academic freedom of speech. I believe that Abertay University acted unlawfully in pursuing this vexatious complaint against me, and I believe Abertay University must protect all of their students, not just a select few.
The process was the punishment
. The University are yet to apologise for this.
For these reasons I intend to pursue legal action against Abertay University.
Please help if you can.