Page last updated at 16:17 GMT, Wednesday, 23 September 2009 17:17 UK

Curvy students 'perk of the job'

By Katherine Sellgren
BBC News education reporter

couple in bed
Dr Kealey warns academics not to act on their fantasies

A university leader has caused controversy by saying curvy female students are a "perk of the job".

Terence Kealey, of the University of Buckingham, said lecturers were aware of females who "flaunted their curves".

In a tongue-in-cheek article for Times Higher Education Magazine on the seven deadly sins of academia, he advised academics to "look but not touch".

The National Union of Students condemned the comments as insulting and disrespectful to women.

Dr Kealey, a clinical bio-chemist and vice-chancellor of Buckingham University, likened the classroom to a lap dancing club and said admiring the curves of attractive students could help "spice up" marital sex.

There will be a girl in class who flashes her admiration... Enjoy her! She's a perk.
Dr Kealey

In his article about the sin of lust, Dr Kealey wrote: "Most male lecturers know that, most years, there will be a girl in class who flashes her admiration and who asks for advice on her essays.

"What to do? Enjoy her! She's a perk."

Referring to characters from Middlemarch by George Eliot and The History Man by Malcolm Bradbury, he added: "She doesn't yet know that you are only Casaubon to her Dorothea, Howard Kirk to her Felicity Phee, and she will flaunt you her curves.

"Which you should admire daily to spice up your sex, nightly, with the wife."

Dr Kealey recalled the days when sex between student and tutor, in return for academic favours, could go by unchecked.

"Thanks to the accountability imposed by the Quality Assurance Agency [the university watchdog] and other intrusive bodies, the days are gone when a scholar could trade sex for upgrades."

'Appalled'

Olivia Bailey, womens' officer for the NUS, said: "I am appalled that a university vice-chancellor should display such an astounding lack of respect for women.

"Regardless of whether this was an attempt at humour, it is completely unacceptable for someone in Terence Kealey's position to compare a lecture theatre to a lap dancing club, and I expect that many women studying at Buckingham University will be feeling extremely angry and insulted at these comments."

Dr Kealey
Dr Kealey said he was using humour to warn against lust

His article has prompted a lively debate on the Times Higher Education website.

"I'm amazed that Terence K has a position in any university, and I'll be damn sure never to apply for a job at Buckingham," said one reader.

Another added: "Any scholar, who assumes that female students who show interest in the subject and ask for help because they have a crush on you or hope to manipulate you with their sexual charms, is a reality-challenged idiot.

"And anyone who thinks that female students are there in the classroom expressly as objects of the instructor's viewing pleasure needs to retire."

But another said: "I'm appalled that everyone's so appalled! - it's just not that important, or offensive."

Humour

Adding his own voice to the online debate, Dr Kealey said his article was a "moral piece" which used humour to encourage people to exercise self-restraint.

And he told the BBC: "It says that sex between middle-aged academics and young undergraduates is wrong. It also says that academics should enjoy the company of their students. That too is unexceptionable.

"The Times Higher readership is composed mainly of academics who would be expected to appreciate articles written at more than one level. The crudeness of some of the examples was to underpin the inappropriateness of transgressional sex and that is a conventional literary device.

"Sex between staff and students is not funny and is not a legitimate source of humour but it is legitimate to use humour to illuminate the ways that people finesse the dissonance between what is publicly acceptable and what is sometimes privately desired."

A spokesman for the University and College Union said: "Harassment is not something to be taken lightly and I would be surprised, and deeply concerned, if any university, or vice-chancellor, tried to laugh it off."

Dr Kealey has been vice-chancellor at Buckingham - the UK's only independent university - since 2001.



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