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Backdown on Feminist Conference Requires Justification

Massey University Backdown on hosting Feminist Conference Requires Justification

"Massey University's backdown on hosting the event "Feminism 2020," citing health and safety concerns, requires explanation. Specifically, where they physical health and safety concerns, or simply that people didn't want to hear different opinions?

Massey issued a press release today, citing that they are "committed to the values of academic freedom, the freedom of speech, and the freedom of expression.." Besides tediously overusing the definite article, Massey has also "advised Speak Up For Women to find an alternative venue for its Feminism 2020 event," citing "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."

"If Massey are going to use 'independent legal advice' as their reason, we'd love to know who gave it, and what it said.

"If it is the case that violence was threatened, then why didn't Massey engage the police? Did they engage the police? Given that Massey Vice Chancellor Jan Thomas gave mixed messages about the role of the Police in her decision to cancel Don Brash's speech on their Manawatu campus last year, it's something worth knowing.

"If people have been able to shut down debate by simply threatening violence, then we are in a very dark place. We should never lose our freedom to think and speak to violence and coercion.

"On the other hand, if the University is now interpreting Health and Safety as protection from uncomfortable or challenging ideas, then the situation is arguably worse. Massey University has legal obligations to uphold academic freedom and to be transparent as a public institution.

Clarifying what sort of threats it saw to its student and Staff's health and safety would be very helpful to us all.


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