Swedish professor accused of bigotry for saying men and women ‘biologically different’
The professor, Germund Hesslow, who works in neurophysiology at Lund University, was accused by a student of making “transphobic” and “anti-feminist” statements in a lecture — but he has refused to back down.
During his course on ‘Heritage and Environment’ at the leading academic institution, Hesslow cited empirical research which supports the idea that there are differences between men and women which are “biologically founded” and therefore genders cannot be regarded as “social constructs alone”.
The complainant suggested that Hesslow’s comments were at odds with the Swedish “value base” — a concept which requires all schools in Sweden to adhere to a common ethical policy, which includes upholding values like egalitarianism, individual freedom and equality of the sexes.
In an interview with RT, Hesslow said that some students, “for ideological reasons,” don't like to hear certain scientific facts about biological differences between men and women. He said that the comments which prompted the complaint were not even necessarily part of his course material, but that they were answers to students’ questions during the course of the lecture.
“If you answer such a question you are under severe time pressure, you have to be extremely brief — and I used wording which I think was completely innocuous, and that apparently the student didn't,” Hesslow said.
Hesslow was summoned to a meeting by Christer Larsson, the chairman of the program board for medical education, after one female student complained that the professor had expressed his “personal anti-feminist agenda,” Academic Rights Watch reported.
The university asked Hesslow to “distance” himself from two specific comments; that gay women have a “male sexual orientation” and that whether transsexuality is a sexual orientation is “a matter of definition”. The professor refused to back away from the comments, saying that he had “done enough” already to “explain and defend” his choice of words.
“At some point, one must ask for a sense of proportion among those involved. If it were to become acceptable for students to record lectures in order to find compromising formulations and then involve faculty staff with meetings and long letters, we should let go of the medical education altogether,” he said in a written reply to Larsson.
In his response, Hesslow also rejected the notion that he had a “political agenda” and said his only agenda was to let scientific fact, not new conventional wisdom, steer university proceedings. “Ideology, politics and prejudice form the conventional outlook, not science,” he said.
Asked whether or not he thought the incident had been a “misunderstanding” or part of some broader pattern, Hesslow told RT that he believed the student in question was simply “someone who dislikes the lecture and is trying to find various pretexts for attacking it.”
Hesslow also told RT that the university rector had ordered a “full investigation” into the case and said that there “have been discussions about trying to stop the lecture or get rid of me, or have someone else give the lecture or not give the lecture at all.” He also suggested that the university could use his age as a “pretext” to take him off the course, because he is past retirement age.
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