Fears as gay-row professor lands St Andrews role

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Students at St Andrews University have expressed concern over the appointment of a philosopher who has published controversial views on homosexuality.

Professor Roger Scruton has been named quarter-time professorial fellow in moral philosophy and is due to take up his new role next spring.

The appointment has been criticised by the university students' association who are concerned about Professor Scruton's views 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, according to the University of St Andrews Students' Association website.

Prof Scruton, who is from Buckinghamshire, is currently a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington DC and the Visiting Professor of aesthetics at the philosophy faculty of Oxford University.

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

Owen Wilton, the president of the students' association, said: "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."

A joint statement from the director of representation and the students' body stated: "We recognise that 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."

Only weeks ago St Andrews University found itself at the centre of another storm over homosexuality when a senior Episcopal clergyman criticised the decision to appoint an outspoken theologian to a senior post.

The Rt Rev Kelvin Holdsworth, provost of St Mary's Cathedral in Glasgow, was angered that his former alma mater announced it was to install Dr Tom Wright, the Bishop of Durham, into an academic role, despite his opposition to the ordination of gay clergy.

A university statement said: "We are enormously proud of our record as a progressive employer and are utterly committed to providing a work and study environment free from discrimination.

"Like all members of staff, Prof 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."