Massey University has cancelled a booking made by a students’ politics club at which former politician and Hobson’s Pledge founder Dr Don Brash was invited to speak at the University’s Manawatū campus on Wednesday.
Club members had signed a venue and space use agreement form in which they agreed to manage the venue in accordance with the University’s Strategy, including recognising the values of a Te Tiriti o Waitangi-led organisation and ensuring its use would not adversely affect University operations, security, reputation or public safety.
The members later approached University management concerned about their ability to meet the agreement’s terms around security after becoming aware of social media posts suggesting the event could lead to violence.
The University considered providing additional security for the event, but decided the risk of harm to students, staff and members of the public was too great, particularly at a time of heightened tension over the issues around free speech and hate speech. Dr Brash was also a supporter of right-wing Canadian speakers Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux, who were due to address a public meeting in Auckland.
He had been invited by the students in his capacity as a former National Party leader to discuss the party as part of a series of talks involving current leader Simon Bridges and an MP considered a potential future leader, Chris Bishop.
Professor Thomas says she supports free speech on campus, but totally opposes hate speech. “Mr Brash’s leadership of Hobson’s Pledge and views he and its supporters espoused in relation to Māori wards on councils was clearly of concern to many staff, particularly Māori staff. Whether those views would have been repeated to students in the context of a discussion about the National Party may seem unlikely, but I have no way of knowing. In my opinion, the views expressed by members of Hobson’s Pledge come dangerously close to hate speech. They are certainly not conducive with the University's strategy of recognising the values of a Tiriti o Waitangi-led organisation.”
“It is clear there is heightened sensitivity and passion at this time, following the protests both against and in support of Ms Southern and Mr Molyneux’s right to be heard. Our ultimate responsibility is for the safety and wellbeing of students, staff and members of the public on our campuses and under those circumstances cancelling the booking is the right thing to do. The members of the Politics Club have acted responsibly in raising their concerns with the University and are free to meet Dr Brash at another venue if they wish.”