Response to ‘Feminism 2020’ event

16 October 2019

Massey University has advised Speak Up For Women to find an alternative venue for its Feminism 2020 event. The University has received external advice on its health, safety and wellbeing obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, and its duty of care to the University community, and has made the decision on these grounds.

The legal advice we have received is that cancellation of the event, as concluded by the report, is the only way to eliminate the risk to health and safety and to ensure that the University would not be in breach of its health and safety obligations.

Massey University is committed to the values of academic freedom, the freedom of speech, and the freedom of expression, as values that lie at the very heart of the tradition of a university and academic inquiry. However, this event has created significant disruption to our students, staff and University operations, and we cannot accept any further risk or issues, or any risk of potential harm that may impact upon a particularly vulnerable community.

Previous statement

27 September 2019

You may be aware of an upcoming November event called ‘Feminism 2020’ organised by a group called Speak Up 4 Women and using one of our Wellington campus venues. We have had several complaints about this event and questions from media on why we have allowed the booking to go ahead, as this group holds controversial views on the rights of transgender and intersex people.

We would like to emphasise that the university strongly and openly stands with the sexual- and gender-diverse community, and the safety and wellbeing of our students and staff is a top priority. We do not in any way share the views of the speakers of this event.

We will be donating the proceeds of the venue booking to a sexual- or gender-diverse group – suggestions are welcomed via our Facebook page.

We are currently placing signs, flags and posters around our campuses to show support for our community and we will be increasing this over the next few weeks so that our people are aware of our commitment to diversity and inclusion. The rainbow and transgender flags will fly prominently on campus wherever possible. We will be taking active steps to ensure that the participants of this event will have to arrive to a venue that is very clearly pro-rainbow, and that our staff and students experience our support.

In addition, we are looking at potential events to ensure the community is well supported by the university, and currently considering how we can better support our staff and students who belong to a sexual- or gender-diverse community. We stand with our people.

We are also proud to have the Rainbow Tick, which confirms our commitment to the rainbow community. We’re committed to equal opportunities for everyone. (Find more information about how this applies practically on campus).

We would like you to be aware that this event has a security plan and risk assessment and we are closely monitoring the situation in the event of any potential issues.

While we strongly support our community, we are also committed to free speech as a fundamental tenet of a university, and we recognise that free speech, academic freedom and freedom of expression are contentious and nuanced issues worldwide. We are currently working on a Freedom of Expression Policy as a public statement to reaffirm our commitment to free speech and academic freedom, and an External Speaker Code of Practice, to provide more guidance to speakers on our three campuses.

If you have concerns over the event, please feel free to email us.

Support is available from Student Services and the health and counselling centres on campus, and we encourage you to make use of this if you need.

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