Statement from Professor Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University.

A number of colleagues from around the University have been in touch to raise concerns about an answer I gave to a question about free speech at an event in London earlier this week. There has also been some reporting in the press, and a great deal of reaction on social media. I might have hoped that my track record over many years of speaking out against discrimination in all its forms would have answered some of those concerns, but I can see that I need to be crystal clear about where I stand. The University also wants to be sure that its commitment to tackling discrimination is not misunderstood. I therefore asked Rebecca Surender, PVC for Equality and Diversity, and Kevin Coutinho, the University's Head of Equality and Diversity, to set out the principles which guide us, the range of our shared efforts on this front, and the actions we take in support of them, which they do below.

It is a matter of great regret to me that my words are being used to call into question this impressive, sustained endeavour to make Oxford a diverse and inclusive university. I am proud of everything we do in this regard and I give it, as I always have, my wholehearted support:

Oxford’s commitment to tackling discrimination

The University is committed to fostering an inclusive culture which promotes equality, values diversity and respects the dignity of all staff, students and visitors. Whilst the University of Oxford is proud to protect academic freedom to discuss and debate issues, the University does not tolerate any form of unlawful discrimination, harassment or victimisation. The University’s commitment is supported by a range of policies, training and practice and engagement with networks and group representing the interests of different protected groups.

The University is an institution which is proud to offer a place of study and work that is both safe and welcoming to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGBT+) students and staff. We are committed to ensuring that LGBT+ staff and students are able to thrive and realise their potential at the University. We are a proud member of the Stonewall Diversity Champions programme, participate annually in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index, resource staff and students networks that actively engage in a range of activities within the University, the city and the wider community. We enthusiastically support and participate in LGBT History Month, Oxford Pride, a Straight Allies Programme, an LGBT Role Models Programme and provide targeted initiatives that support LGBT+ staff and students.

Whilst recognising that our commitments are clear, there may be instances where individuals experience inappropriate behaviours which amount to discrimination, harassment or victimisation. To support students who may experience such behaviour, there are a number of support services that are resourced to provide advice and guidance, including the college Welfare Officer, Student Advice Service, The Proctors’ Office, Student Counselling Service, Student Peer Supporters in college or department, including Rainbow Peers, and the Oxford SU and its LGBTQ Campaign.

To support staff colleagues, the University has a Harassment Advice Service including LGB Harassment Advisors, volunteers from the LGBT+ Advisory Group who are ‘safe contacts’ and local trade union representatives.