Dr Kealey and THE Ed respond (you ain’t gonna like it)

// 24 September 2009

UPDATE: The NUS are asking that we write to the Chair of Buckingham’s Governing Council demanding Kealey’s full and comprehensive apology – Mark your email ‘FAO Chair of Governing Council’ and send to qualityassurance[at]buckingham.ac.uk. You can also send your views and stories of sexism in education to the NUS Women’s Officer at olivia.bailey[at]nus.org.uk, to be published anonymously in the next few days.

Well, the University of Buckingham VC, Dr Terence Kealey, has responded to criticism of his ‘female students are perks of the job’ piece by completely failing to get it:

This is a moral piece that says that middle aged male academics and young female undergraduates should not sleep together. Rather, people should exercise self-restraint. Because transgressional sex is inappropriate, the piece uses inappropriate and transgressional language to underscore the point – a conventional literary device. At a couple of places, the piece confounds expectations, another conventional literary device, designed to maintain the reader’s interest. Sex between academics and students is not funny, and should not be a source of humour. But 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 – not just in this context – reaches back to origins of humour itself. In his introduction, Matthew wondered how many of his contributors would enter into the spirit of levity that inspired the idea of the seven deadly academic sins (submitting a piece on prevarication late, etc) and I suspected that one could get to heart of all that is wrong with sex between scholars and students by employing the good ol’ boy language of middle aged male collusion. I’m not sure I’m wrong.

I’m not buying a word of it. For starters, Kealey made no reference to the age of the lecturers and undergrads in his original piece, nor did he suggest that ‘people’ should exercise self restraint: his words were entirely directed at male lecturers with female students as the object of his so-called ‘humour’. And he may argue for restraint when it comes to not touching, but he actively encourages male lecturers to have a real good perve, without a second thought as to how this attitude could affect the female students he is supposed to care about.

But mostly, he’s displaying his male privilege, his complete lack of understanding of what it is to live as a woman, and certainly a lack of empathy. The vast majority of women will recognise that the language he used was far from transgressional: it’s just the same old objectifying, victim-blaming tripe we hear all the time, on the street, in the media, in our workplaces and out on the town. He’s dressed it up in the vocabulary of academia, but his essential message is one we’ve heard time and again: sexism is over, so we can all have a good laugh at it now. It’s not, and I sure as hell am not laughing.

As for the Editor’s response, well, it ticks all the sexism apologist boxes:

I am a woman (as helpfully pointed out by a poster on the original article), a feminist and I have a sense of humour. Most importantly, however, I believe in academic freedom and the right to free speech. Terence Kealey was asked to write on the theme of “the seven deadly sins of academe”. He was explicitly asked for a “lighthearted” or “wry” piece, and we suggested the topic of “lust”, which was a “sin” identified by a straw poll of academics; it was not Dr Kealey’s own suggested topic. Dr Kealey’s article was satire. I fully support his right to express himself in this way. If people are offended, that is their right and they also have the right to express that.

If we cannot have freedom of speech and robust debate in the academy where can we have it?

Yes, the issue here is clearly one of free speech, I mean, if the THE hadn’t printed Kealey’s article the poor wickle University vice-chancellor with his 45 original peer-reviewed papers, 35 scientific reviews and two books would have never had a chance to express himself. Screw the thousands of female Buckingham students who now have no leg to stand on should their male lecturer spend more time staring at those breasts they brazenly display on their chests than supporting their learning, Dr Kealey must have his say!

Consider me thoroughly unimpressed.

Comments From You

Elmo // Posted 24 September 2009 at 11:14 am

“employing the good ol’ boy language of middle aged male “- yeah, and the values

Amy Clare // Posted 24 September 2009 at 11:38 am

Oh, it’s a “literary device”!

That’s all right then.

/sarcasm.

Kit // Posted 24 September 2009 at 12:23 pm

So that’s basically “It was a joke,” then? Honestly, how hard is it to understand joking about something that negatively affects people-who-aren’t-you is offensive and requires a real apology (not “I’m sorry you were offended,”/”I’m sorry you didn’t get the joke,”) when people-who-aren’t-you rightly take offense? Or even accept that if causing offense in people-who-aren’t-you wasn’t the intention, the “joke” wasn’t worded well enough to indicate that intention at all. Is he supposed to be educated and intelligent or something?

Kristin // Posted 24 September 2009 at 12:44 pm

So Terence Kealey’s right to free speech has to be preserved at the expense of the well being of and respect for female students? Nice.

To say that this is about freedom of speech is based on the assumption that free speech exists for everyone equally. It doesn’t. Free speech is always restricted directly or indirectly, and you can see from the media in general which attitudes are promoted (Kealey’s and his ilk) or silenced/scorned (The F-Word and feminism).

Most people – even Mr Kealey – recognise that the scorning/oppressing/blaming of any group for its identity is evil. Why do people like him then still suspend any self-restraint when it comes to the female gender?

saranga // Posted 24 September 2009 at 1:28 pm

re the right to free speech angle:

was anyone saying his article should be banned? i doubt it, i think we were all saying it was bollocks. that’s different.

why do responses to critiques based around bigotry in a text, mention the author’s right to free speech? it’s a derailing tactic and rubbish.

he may well have used literary conventions to make his point, but he didn’t address the underlying assumption that women are there to be ogled by men. which is what the problem with the piece is.

HarpyMarx // Posted 24 September 2009 at 1:57 pm

Healey’s piece was ‘witty satire’…? Did I miss it…? And ‘humour’ …well if came across as the crass ‘ooh er missus’ sexist twaddle. The bilge he wrote was indeed an apology for gross sexism.

Yes, I agree with freedom of speech, Healey can come out with what he says but we have the right to criticise.

The Ed. is using ‘freedom of speech’ as a distraction, I haven’t heard anyone saying he should be censored instead people are criticising his views. Utterly different.

I also am amazed with THES & the Ed’s response, why are they surprised at the barrage of complaints and criticisms as this man is a sexist jerk of a dinosaur. Sheesh…..

KJB // Posted 24 September 2009 at 2:04 pm

For anyone who needs – NEEDS, like I did, to laugh at this, I felt a satire was necessary:

http://gts-kjb.blogspot.com/2009/09/kealey-more-burkas-please.html

Kit // Posted 24 September 2009 at 2:08 pm

On the free speech thing: I thing people tend to confuse being free to pay what they want but others being equally free to call them on it, and being free to be a jerk without any consequence.

Kate // Posted 24 September 2009 at 2:37 pm

‘Fwee speach! ‘

You’re right, all the editor apologised for was our own inability to get it. You don’t publish views male lecturers should perve on students, make reference to staring at their tits, disturbingly taking a picture home of said students while sleeping with the wife and then make a pathetic fuss about it being ‘free speech’. Fuck you. These students I’m sure didn’t ask for this commentary off this sickening man, who I’m sure probably needs his position put into question.

What the hell Kealey was talking about in his apology we’ll never know..

Thesse aren’t so much apologies as ‘why aren’t you getting the fact we have a RIGHT to be sexist?’ Well, things are changing.

Shea // Posted 24 September 2009 at 4:14 pm

That’s the weakest version of an apology ever.

Got a flying DeLorean in the back yard Kealey? Because its 2009 not 1959, and you are still stuck in a world of male privilege. Literary devices aside, your piece wasn’t funny, it wasn’t clever and the only point underscored was that you still believe the “good ol’ boy language of middle aged male collusion”.

Just grow up.

(Likewise the Editor’s appeal to dubious authority, “but I’m a woman, so it can’t be sexist”).

What I want from The University of Buckingham is a piece by female students demanding that sad, middle aged lecturers get over their delusional fantasies and just teach them.

Now that would be freedom of speech.

Anne Onne // Posted 24 September 2009 at 8:54 pm

You’d think an academic with that much writing behind him would understand satire. By which I mean understand that a satirist has to be very careful to make it clear they are being satirical. If one doesn’t, one runs the risk of being vilified for furthering the viewpoint they supposedly find abhorrent. As such, you have to take responsibility for your actions and accept you may offend the very people you say you support. Accepting this, apologising, and making clear that you really don’t hold those beliefs, and understand that you may have missed something is part of being a free-speaking adult.

Sure, he can say what he wants, but so can anyone else. And female students and all who support them are free to call for his dismissal for his ill-judged words and refusal to accept what he said was offensive and inappropriate for his position.

And that’s all assuming he actually meant to be satirical, if you choose to believe that.

Jennifer Drew // Posted 24 September 2009 at 11:44 pm

No, Kealey you cannot hide behind the claim ‘I was being satirical’ because you clearly were not. Neither is it relevant the editor of Times Higher Educational Supplement is a woman, since Kealey was directing his misogynistic sexualised comments to all female students not an individual woman. Men who engage in misogyny and/or sexualised insults reinforces the supposed normacy of women’s subordination to men as a group. This is irrespective of whether or not an individual woman finds such sexualised degrading insults offensive or not. The insults were levied at a group not an individual.

Kealey clearly needs to undergo training in learning how to write ethical articles which do not promote and incite male academics to engage in sexually harassing female students. Such behaviour creates and maintains a ‘hostile environment’ for female students.

But since Kealey directed his sexualised insults to female students not other non-white groups which include males, this supposedly makes his actions acceptable. After all women are men’s sexualised commodities and hence have no basic human rights.

That right continues to be reserved for men and particularly powerful white men.

polly // Posted 25 September 2009 at 8:06 am

How surprising, the editor of the TES doesn’t want to admit she made a mistake.

Sorry, just being witty and satirical .

The University of Buckingham is wholly private, or am I wrong about that? Wonder what the marketing department think about Dr Kealey? Any suggestions for the new ad campaign?

Gaylou // Posted 25 September 2009 at 1:03 pm

I am currently a female student from the University of Buckingham.My response to this is that this article has been taken (by everyone reading it) the wrong way. Relying on the main headlines only to make your own criticisms and judgements is totally out of hand. Maybe people should read the whole article before expressing their views. The university of buckingham is the perfect place to be and the perfect place to study. The way people are innterpreing it is not the way the university works.Nothing which involves sex between male lecturers and students happens here.

The article is a really good one and I think personally that it is not to be taken seriously. It was meant to be a joke and it was merely a satire one. Our Vice Chancellor is a really good man and he is not the type to encourage these types of activities. On the contrary if you read the article properly he is actually discouraging these kinds of activities. This article should not at all be taken seriously and I repeat myself again the university is not like what the media is making it look like. I am a strong female activist and I do not accept degrading comments about women and I surely did not find this article insulting at all.

Laura // Posted 25 September 2009 at 1:08 pm

Hi Gaylou,

I did read the whole article; I posted on it before this blog post (here: /blog/2009/09/university_of_b ) and hadn’t read any of the media criticism aside from the Telegraph article before expressing my own opinion. My criticism is wholly aimed at Dr Kealey, not Buckingham University.

Sumit Jain // Posted 25 September 2009 at 1:24 pm

well, sometimes it happens that people look at the things the way they are shown to them. I never knew unless I visited pyramids of egypt myself, that there is pizza hut and KFC just next to it. As the title itself suggests, seven deadly sins of academy; so considering it we need to get our perspective right that the author here is talkin about the sins which are supposedly not to be done. Infact if you just go through the last para of the article, look and not touch at all.

On the second place, the dialogue of which the phobia is being created about, “Enjoy her! She is a perk.” is entirely a sign of sense of humour, which might be over the top of some people’s level of humour, also as a vice chancellor of the university, I believe you got to have that to achieve student satisfaction except academics. That is what he has been doing wonderfully from last 4 years.

Last but not the least at all, as a student over here I can say that with full assurance that it is not like it at all. There is always a healthy relationship among the academias and the students. They discuss things sometimes with a bit of personal touch that is meant in all positive sense just to achieve and ensure maximum learning which is done too. As we are a small university, we can manage that personal attachment which most of the UK universities aspire for but can not manage. That is what a good reason too that we are on top in student satisfaction from last 4 years. So, get a humour guys or atleast do not just give your opinions about something you have not read carefully and in the perspective it is written.

Kit // Posted 25 September 2009 at 1:36 pm

“As the title itself suggests, seven deadly sins of academy; so considering it we need to get our perspective right that the author here is talkin about the sins which are supposedly not to be done.”

I seem to remember Magnum had a series of ice creams with the Seven Deadly Sins theme which I’m pretty sure we were meant to eat and enjoy ;)

Mary // Posted 25 September 2009 at 1:44 pm

It’s funny, because I’m clever enough to read and adore the parody section of Ulysses, but I’m not clever enough to get the satire of Kealey’s piece.

He must be a real literary genius.

Tabitha // Posted 25 September 2009 at 5:27 pm

Oh, so it was a *joke*? Ha ha, funny! We are, after all, enjoying total and complete equality and can now laugh with liberated mirth at the thought of a man of authority perving over a ‘girl’ far younger than his middle-aged years.

On a serious note, are those men who seem to almost cheer on this man’s sexist drivel equally told in no uncertain terms that this was a joke, not to be taken seriously, that, no, it ISN’T a confirmation that it’s ok to think that all women wear certain clothes just to arouse YOU, that it isn’t ok to eye up young women and project their de-clothed image onto “the wife”?

Shea // Posted 25 September 2009 at 5:36 pm

@ Mary

“He must be a real literary genius.”

Brilliant. :-)

I’m surprised no one has picked up on AA Gill’s piece in the Sunday Times, which is another grotesque piece denigrating “British women” (y’ know the homogeneous group that we all are) and their lack of style and beauty. Its up there with Kealey’s piece in terms of gratuitously offensive.

It seems these middle aged men have realised their meagre powers of attraction are waning and attractive 18 and 19 year olds won’t give them the time of day. So they go on the defensive with disgusting, misogynistic pieces in order to protect the remnants of their fragile egos. Its really quite pathetic.

Denise // Posted 25 September 2009 at 5:52 pm

Shea and Anne Onne, well said! But Shea, I hope you’re not holding your breath waiting for that piece by the female Buck uni students demanding that Kealey and his ilk get over their delusional fantasies and just teach them. Judging from some responses here, I think it just may be a l-o-n-g time comin’.

And can these loyal students please stop patronising other posters/commenters by harping on about how they don’t understand humour and satire and haven’t read the article properly? It seems that obnoxious behaviour is contagious at that place.

Romula // Posted 25 September 2009 at 6:02 pm

Mary, yeah. Way too subtle for me as well! Try as I might, I just can’t get my fluffy little subjective, non-academic, satirically-challenged brain (have I even GOT one?) around how “Enjoy her. She’s a perk.” is HUMOUROUS.

What joys of language and literature will remain forever closed to me! Oh well, feck it. Might as well go and get a-holed.

AmyHudgens // Posted 25 September 2009 at 7:32 pm

Exactly Shea. Not meaning to be all ‘Ha it’s cos yous old and bitter!’ but i feel in some ways it relates to the problem of a lot of sexism, and certainly where all the ‘I can bother the young girls I can’t have!’ comments come from. (One man replied to the times article with an angry, ‘you can’t tell me to stop looking!, when she said old men staring annoy her.)

There is a lot of bitterness from this percieved lack of worth with men growing old – you just have to listen carefully to hear it, given our society preaches men never age and women lose it after 25.

Old men are so keen to say how they never lose worth (i.e. Dr Kealey here) – can we please allow women, the teens to which they refer to speak for themselves? A bit of reality ? I don’t know any who back an old man’s ideas we fawn over them.

Perhaps such bitter men acknowledge the reality and it leads to the resulting avalanche of sexism in the media, which is a constant comfy delusion- supporter that women have a worth of ‘O’, depending on youthful bloom for worth, and men are unquestionably valued.

Kristin // Posted 25 September 2009 at 7:50 pm

Hi Shea,

I picked up on AA Gill’s nasty piece in the Sunday Times, and made a comment about it in the “No, Katie Price is Not Obliged to Name her Rapist” post a few days ago. I’m also surprised it wasn’t more widely commented on. I thought it was horrendous.

Agree about the ‘fragile egos’. It is utterly pathetic. And some of them didn’t even have any powers of attraction to wane in the first place!

Anne Onne // Posted 26 September 2009 at 9:46 pm

Some of us have actually read the article. And I think it’s safe to say we’re all adults or adolescents here, capable enough of reading and interpreting satire and judging the merits of an article.

Some of us will find something more insulting, some of us less so. But, just because one does not find something personally offensive does not mean that it cannot possibly be objectionable on any level and that anyone who objects just doesn’t get it.

With respect, maybe the person who doesn’t object is the one who ‘doesn’t get it’. When we don’t ‘get’ something, we listen to people who do, because we may have missed something.

The nature of satire is that it doesn’t always work. The burden of this is that if it doesn’t, one should ‘fess up, apologise like adults. Because if they REALLY didn’t mean it, they would not want to hurt those people. If someone doesn’t want to apologise and gets defensive, it starts to look like they don’t give a crap who they hurt, or even that they intended it all along. And this is not impressive, nor does it persuade anyone that it was satire instead of barefaced bigotry.

Anne Onne // Posted 26 September 2009 at 9:55 pm

Also, anyone who THINKS this is satire desperately needs a heavy dose of The Onion (http://www.theonion.com/)

Satire has bite, has a dark side, and most importantly, shows up extremism or stupidity for what it is. Calling this collection of pretentious literary references and wistful fantasy satire does a disservice to the writers who could actually DO satire.

Maybe the guy is less creepy in real life (or maybe the Uni’s PR department have found the F word, since I doubt most students would give a toss if one of their lecturers is being criticised about an article they wrote…), maybe he’s good at his job generally. That doesn’t change the content of his article, or whether it was ill advised for him to write it.

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