Massey University – misusing health and safety to strangle off free speech

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NZ Universities have a mandated obligation to be the social conscience of society and they uphold that obligation with academic free speech.

Those obligations are to the wider society, and are part of their social contract with a liberal progressive democracy. That’s why they get so much public money.

They also have an obligation to provide a work environment and study environment that protects staff and students from physical harm and harassment. To conflate this obligation into a health and safety responsibility to protect staff and students from ideas that will trigger them however is intellectually dishonest.

A University doesn’t have an obligation to shield staff and students from ideas that might trigger them, that is the relationship between a parent and a child. A University has an obligation to challenge their staff and students and provide support that enables their ability to cope with that challenge.

What Massey have done is conflate the relationship between University and staff/students to that of a parent protecting their children from unpleasant content, that’s not their responsibility.

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It is intellectual cowardice to circumvent their obligations as a critic of society by conflating health and safety issues to protect staff and students from being triggered. Massey’s job is to challenge and support their students and staff, not wrap them in cotton wool and protect them from thought crimes.

This is a deeply embarrassing day for NZ academia.

We all lose out when a University is prepared to self censor themselves in this manner, if Massey can’t live up to its mandated obligations as a critic of society, hand back all the public money and set up as a private club.

18 COMMENTS

  1. yes this is bad and the second time they have done this and using the heath and safety policy bullocks this is what happens when you have far too many foreigners in charge of our institutions and we have far too many now in top jobs not good enough change is needed a complete attitude change

  2. To conflate this obligation into a health and safety responsibility to protect staff and students from ideas that will trigger them however is intellectually dishonest.

    It’s not just dishonest, it’s transparently dishonest. As with the Don Brash case, the university’s leadership doesn’t want to admit to cancelling the venue because it finds the views of the speaker unpalatable, so it’s had a look for plausible excuses. At least the Brash incident involved an implied security threat, but citing health and safety as the excuse for this latest cancellation is just laughable. And putting out a press release expressing Massey’s commitment to freedom of speech is an insult – I doubt they’re even fooling themselves, let alone anyone else.

    • Psycho Milt: ” And putting out a press release expressing Massey’s commitment to freedom of speech is an insult – I doubt they’re even fooling themselves, let alone anyone else.”

      Insult to injury: Massey’s big guns evidently think we’re as stupid as they are.

  3. What exactly is wrong with Massey ? They’re behaving like rural nuns from Southern Ireland post World War Two. If they have seriously thick people doing decision making, then they’d be better off closing shop than functioning like a small town high school.

    If the VC is an Australian woman – I’m not sure – then she could be programmed any what way. I think I saw her last time making what looked like Maori/Treaty utterings which may have had an edge of – doubtless unconscious – condescension about them. That was when folk thought that someone might biff a tomato at Don Brash – and that a collision of Brash and tomato – or egg- was a health and safety issue – and then some other indigenous person did refer to his rellies coming, but really, tomatoes are much more victim-friendly than eggs – uncooked eggs i.e. – and tomatoes are still edible post-impact – unlike raw eggs – and are also salvageable for chutney. Much ado about nothing, really, apart from a possible waste of perfectly good food.

    • Snow White (delighted to see you’re still using this name!): “If the VC is an Australian woman…”

      If it’s the same person as was VC during the Brash fiasco, yes, she’s Australian. At that time, she was rabbiting on about Massey being a Te Tiriti-based university; that was her initial excuse for not allowing Brash to speak.

      “I think I saw her last time making what looked like Maori/Treaty utterings which may have had an edge of – doubtless unconscious – condescension about them.”

      You did. And they did. Well: she’s Australian. ‘Nuff said.

      I’m guessing that Massey isn’t any less Te Tiriti-based; it’s evidently not any more committed to free speech, either. So this is what we can expect from the notion of universities being Treaty-based.

  4. Today, a professional person – in a challenging job – told me of their workplace being addressed by a high-powered visiting psychologist. One of the issues the psychologist addressed was the social patterns of today’s kids growing up – that they are being over-protected and molly-coddled to the extent that when they meet the slings and arrows of adulthood many can’t cope.

    If Massey is deliberately trying to stop students being exposed to ideas which somebody doesn’t like, then Massey is failing in its job.

    Massey is also behaving irresponsibly banning specific speakers, because interested persons will access ideas and info online, and frankly, being able to have dialogue, and discussion, and an exchange of ideas in a controlled environment, is one of the most fruitful ways of learning and understanding others’ viewpoints.

    The question put to me was, is censorship such as Massey’s part of a bigger picture ?

  5. Sad about universities now as they n get so much funding from large corporate world so they call the tune now and want to silence the free speech as it may affect their profit margins, and its the money that runs their minds and all the universities now.

    • Cleangreen – Then they need to improve their perceived performance, or they’ll blow it. Years ago, Risinghill, a London school, I think one of the first comprehensives to be established there, was involved in so much controversy, that it was finally closed down altogether to solve it’s problems. It later re-opened under another name. I knew of it as I later taught at another comprehensive whose headmaster had been the Head of English at Risinghill. As far as I know, there were no harrowing or personal scandals, but too much controversy which divided the local community with its tensions – a book was written about it which I’ve not read.

      Massey, with the first Don Brash fiasco, and now the scary women, seems to have an effortless capacity for turning molehills into mountains. They need to grow up, and to not confuse ideas with machine guns.

  6. The safe spaces issue has been part of the UK university landscape for the past decade (and the US in a less singular way). It is one subset of the free speech vs hate speech regulation debate.

    Racial minorities, religious minorities, ethnic groups, women (from sexual harassment) and the rainbow community are advocates for safe space.

    Obviously in this particular case, some women who want their exclusive natural birth identity place protected from “intruder danger” are in dispute with some of the rainbow community who also seek safe space.

    It’s not that surprising that its the older white feminists and the those of conservative morality who have been triggered by younger right wing shills (of the natural order argument used to oppose same sex activity and use of contraception) – but rather sad. A lot of early feminists were middle class to the manor born who objected to lower class men having the vote when they did not and who objected to welfare without moral guardianship authority oversight.

    A lot of the TERF fear mongering is classic fake news manipulation, which is probably why academics are so dismissive of it.

    • I love how you are utterly unable to see the hypocrisy in your own argument. The Gender Critical Feminists want their own safe space, but you won’t allow them to have that in favour of the safe spaces you support.

      Also, the academics didn’t dismiss this event because it intellectually was subpar, they stopped it because of ‘health and safety’.

      If Racial minorities, religious minorities, ethnic groups, women (from sexual harassment) and the rainbow community want safe spaces they are allowed those on Campus, places where only they can go, but to expand that to the entire campus so as no idea that might trigger them is allowed defeats the fundamental obligation Universities have to the society that funds them.

      • Meh. So many straw men in one post.

        1. I said that many academics are dismissive of the argument, not that this is why they did not allow it to be made on campus.

        2. I said the issue of safe space on campus has been around for sometime (in the USA – reclaim the night on campus for decades), and I did not say women or the rainbow community had a greater claim to safe space, or even comment on whether the Massey made the right call.

  7. Give them their own toilets it is that simple, us women we need to have our own space also we should not have to share a toilet with a man. And if they are bisexual or tran-sexual provide some facilities for them. I don’t like sharing with men especially when we get our period (cultural perspective)and why should I be made to feel unsafe, we need a separate facility. Everybody has a right to feel safe irrespective of their sexuality. Now put yourself in others shoes. People need to understand it is hard on our older generation all this change and some of it radical change particularly when someone is not sure of their sexuality because we were raised you are either one or the other for many it is confusing.

    • Michelle – What I really don’t like is seeing men coming out of a loo still doing up the front of their trousers, and seeing that 99% of them never wash their hands – in fact it could be an even higher number than 99.

  8. SPC wrote:
    “It’s not that surprising that its the older white feminists and the those of conservative morality who have been triggered by younger right wing shills (of the natural order argument used to oppose same sex activity and use of contraception) – but rather sad.”

    To be perfectly honest I can’t make head nor tail of this statement. Who are the “older” and “conservative” and who are the “right wing shills” here? I can’t work out how to fit either definition to either side of this debate. Neither side of the debate over the holding or banning of “Feminism 2020” are predominantly of one particular age, race or view on contraception as far as I can tell. The trans activists and their allies want everyone to accept that “trans women are women” and allow unfettered access to traditionally female only spaces, like, well, changing rooms where women and girls (and presumably now some physically male but self identified women) will be undressing. They are represented people of all ages from teens to mature adults. The gender critical want to retain the definition of woman as “adult female human” and see some potential problems with the trans activist approach, like making it easier for men to get into women’s changing rooms . . .. They are all ages from teens to mature adults. I have not seen any statement from anyone involved with either side suggesting opposition to contraception. I have certainly not seen any statement from Speak Up For Women (the organisers of the Feminism 2020 event) that was anti “same sex activity”. It would be odd since many of them are Lesbians who resent being described as transphobic for being attracted to women. I’m not confused by the issue but I am completely confused by the above statement about it.

  9. I just want to point out that the Speak Up for Women event was being held out of term time, in the evening. There would be no students around. So how the hell could they be “harmed” ?????? This is the height of absurdity. I dread the future of the planet (if there is a future) being in the hands of people who were so protected from having anything they don’t like coming within miles of them that they can’t cope. We’re going to be ruled by infantile minds that are the equivalent of Weetbix with hot milk through never having had to meet any challenges of hard thought. The universities are absolutely abdicating their responsibilities. Shame on them.

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