Massey University has been flooded with complaints after a controversial speaker was invited to host an on-site panel event in November.
Meghan Murphy, a Canadian feminist blogger, was invited to speak at the Feminism 2020 panel event. The event promises the publican opportunity to see “the feminists they don’t want you to hear, uncensored”. While not an officially endorsed event, the venue hired is operated by the Wellington branch of Massey University.
The controversy arises from Murphy being openly critical of transgender activism and legislation, believing it to be negatively impacting on women’s rights. A change in Twitter’s policy – labelling use of incorrect transgender pronouns as “hateful conduct or harassment” – led to Murphy being handed a ban late in 2018. After breaching these terms by referring to a trans woman as ‘him’, Twitter permanently suspended her account in November.
Murphy is not the only controversial figure that has been invited to attend. Dr Holly Lawford-Smith, a philosophy lecturer from the University of Melbourne, is another speaker who has had her accounts suspended by Twitter for expressing similarly radicalistic views on transgenderism within the domain of feminism.
This event has been faced with strong opposition from within the trans community. Event organizers Speak Up for Women have a history of campaigning for gender self-identification in the past, and the university’s decision to facilitate this new event has come under scrutiny.
Kiwi organization Rainbow Tick, whom allocate accreditations for organizations based on their diversity and inclusion process, are planning to review Victoria University’s standards if the event were to continue.
A congregation organized by university club UniQ (advocates for queer rights) brought together students and staff to discuss the implications of this planned event. One participant was noted as saying “we feel Massey is failing us as students, we feel attacked [and] vulnerable.”
Despite persistent concerns, an official statement from the university indicates that the event is all but certain to go ahead. “While we strongly support our community, we are also committed to free speech as a fundamental tenet of a university,” the statement says, “and we recognise… [these] are contentious and nuanced issues worldwide.”
Yet the university reiterates that it “strongly and openly stands with the sexual- and gender-diverse community,” and it has already pledged that venue hire proceeds will be donated to a “sexual- or gender-diverse group”.