AUT has cancelled our union meeting at the university following lobbying from Woke staff and students.
Usually we stand with organisations being cancelled, but today it’s us.
Next Tuesday, we were scheduled to host the first of our university union meetings at AUT with Daphna Whitmore discussing her experience with Speak Up for Women, and winning against the Palmerston North City Council. This was to speak to members of our union at the university, to connect with new members, and explain the work we do.
We contacted the Vice-Chancellor’s office two months ago to let him know that we would hold this meeting (as we must under the Employment Relations Act, which is supposed to protect our right to meet). There was no trouble, and the event was scheduled without a hitch.
So what changed last week? The fact we’ve advertised the event.
AUT staff, like Lexie Matheson (a transgender lecturer), became aware of the event and have been lobbying the university to not allow us to hold the event. Part of the reason we became a trade union was so that we could rely on our ‘union access’ rights to hold meetings on employer premises if activists tried to block us. (You can hear us discuss the issue here, on our latest podcast).
When we said we would hold union meetings at universities in the country this year, we knew we were picking a fight – the worst anti-speech sentiments are found in our universities. That’s why we need to take the fight to them, where good ideas and can be bad ones and debate can reveal a path forward.
The Rainbow NZ Charitable Trust posted applauding AUT’s decision — they’re going to be very disappointed when we go ahead with a meeting anyway, albeit with only AUT staff in attendance.
If AUT gets away with stopping us holding a union meeting, universities across the country will block us from promoting the value of free speech.
We have insisted that AUT staff cannot be stopped from meeting with union representatives in their workplace, so we will defy their attempt to cancel this event and represent our membership, as is our right under the Employment Relations Act 2000. All AUT staff are invited to this union meeting, though at the moment we can’t let in any of our other members or supporters.
We’re also hosting an event at Victoria University next week with Karl du Fresne, and Don Brash at Massey University next month.
Next Thursday at 6 pm we also have Karl Du Fresne speaking at Victoria University on ‘Saved from opinions: safe spaces and free speech’. With universities becoming more cognizant of their pastoral duties in recent years, the notion that universities should be safe spaces for students has displaced the traditional notion of universities being safe spaces for ideas. A recent Free Speech Union survey found almost half of New Zealand academics feeling less free than free in respect of most aspects of academic freedom surveyed. It’s worth asking whether the newfound prominence of safe spaces is hurting intellectual inquiry and undermining academic freedom.
So are safe spaces fundamentally at odds with the rigorous intellectual exchange central to the idea of a university? Do they constitute a direct threat to free speech which fosters groupthink and limits the flow of ideas? Or do they enable students to feel respected and supported enough to engage critically with uncomfortable ideas?
Again, just holding an event is too much for the Woke. If you’re in Wellington, show your support for free speech by attending this event.
We also have Don Brash lined up to speak at Massey’s Palmerston North campus on Thursday 5th May at 4 pm. Just wait until the Woke hear about that!
Join us at these live events to hear from those who are making a difference in our fight for free speech and to show those that are trying to undermine our speech that we’re up for the challenge. RSVP by clicking on the links to let us know you’re coming.
The only reason we’re able to take these fights to the censorious woke is because we have a team going into bat everyday for your right to speak. We can’t do this alone. Ironically, the fight for speech requires more than words. Stand with those getting runs on the board.
Update on Royal Society meeting
Recently we told you that following the resignation of Garth Cooper and Robert Nola from the Royal Society (which Graham Adams discussed here), more than 70 prominent fellows wrote to the CEO of the Royal Society to move formal motions. They called for the society to apologise for its conduct, to review both its code of conduct, to ensure this cannot happen again, and the governance structure of the organisation, given the international embarrassment this situation has caused.
The meeting took place Wednesday last week and was attended by around 100 people on-site and 95 people online.
Once the meeting had commenced, the fellows were informed by the ‘independent facilitators’ tasked with running the meeting that there could not be a vote on any of the motions proposed.
One of the two ‘independent facilitators’ explained that the President of RSTA, Brent Clothier, and the Chair of Academy Council, Charlotte Macdonald, would not be answering questions since this was about “you having your say.” However, to many who were there, it seemed, rather, that the facilitators were there to serve the Royal Society executive in damage control. The President and Academy Chair did not have to answer questions, repeatedly put, about how the message they both signed, denouncing the Listener letters for things they did not actually say, and kept on the Royal Society website for months, was decided upon and worked out.
The Royal Society’s dedication to free speech was affirmed, without evidence, by a member of the Royal Society executive. Unfortunately, it seems that the management of the Royal Society is intent on using every tool available to them to avoid accountability for their disgraceful actions.
So it seems there is not much accountability for the woke mob at the Royal Society who drummed up this witch hunt. But we’ll be making sure this issue doesn’t go to bed. There are serious questions to be asked about whether the Royal Society should be tasked with dolling out public monies.
We’ve sent letters to both the Minister of Education and the Auditor-General asking them why an organisation that receives tens of millions of dollars every year gets off in undermining Kiwis’ free speech. We’re going to need more than platitudes from them, given their action against free speech.
Self-censorship not confined to academia: debate on co-governance undermining free speech
Last week we released the results of our first Annual Survey on Academic Freedom, which paint a stark picture of the extent of self-censorship in our universities. The full report produced by Curia Market Research is now available on our website.
This is research that no one else is doing. We took this a step further as we wanted to gauge the general population as well and asked eligible voters whether they felt free to openly discuss issues of race and colonialism from any perspective, or whether they self-censor if they think others will disagree with them.
42% of everyday Kiwis said they self-censored on these issues.
We also asked respondents whether they felt free to openly discuss the “Government’s moves toward co-governance with Māori iwi, or whether they sometimes limit what you say on the issue in certain settings?”.
39% of everyday Kiwis said they do not feel free to openly discuss the Government’s moves towards co-governance.
These results are similar to our academic results, which revealed significant minorities (almost half) of respondents feeling less free than free on most points surveyed.
Serious questions have to be asked about the ability of all Kiwis to be part of our nation moving forward when so many feel unable to contribute to such a significant debate. The debate around race and colonialism is just one issue, but it is significant and if individuals don’t feel free to voice their perspectives on it, as a nation we will be worse off.
Without us knowing the problem, we can’t solve it. Research like this shows that free speech is under attack in New Zealand. The woke mob can’t deny it- politicians can’t ‘refute the question.’ Now, what are we each going to do about it? The Free Speech Union is taking concrete actions, through our campaigns, cases, and content to push back against censorship on tricky issues.
NZME AGM confirms fears for free speech
A prime example of this was the conduct of the NZME Board at last week’s Annual General Meeting, which confirmed the worst fears of many shareholders concerning a disregard for free speech.
The NZME Board refused to engage with shareholders on the topic, despite it being on the agenda for discussion. Instead, the Chair opted for a pre-scripted response and shut down the meeting without answering questions from online participants.
The Board’s decision to not open the floor at any point for discussion with shareholders and its failure to take questions on issues that were on the agenda speaks to a disregard for the concerns raised by shareholders. In claiming that there were no questions from shareholders on the issue, the Chair was either misinformed or misleading the meeting. The Free Speech Union are aware of many people who submitted questions online – none of which were addressed.
The irony is, responding to accusations of shutting down crucial discussions by shutting down a crucial discussion is a gross strategic misstep by the NZME Board. The ‘nothing to see here’ tone was undermined by the fact that no one else was allowed to comment, or raise any questions.
Ultimately, lip service to tolerance and inclusion without dedication to free speech is a sham. Free speech is the basic foundation on which tolerance and inclusion are built. Without them, we should expect to see more board meetings silencing the concerns of shareholders. We’ve been battling with the NZME for some time now, and now they know we’re watching. We’re not going to simply walk away from this fight now.
This week we have two new episodes of the Free Speech Union podcast for you to enjoy:
Dane Giraud had the chance to sit down with Don Franks, a published author and musician. Don and Dane discuss the centrality of Free Speech to the union movement of yesteryear, Marx on ‘Free Speech” and why speech restrictions are never called for from those on the lowest rung.
I also sat down with Dane to talk through the sham of an AGM that NZME put on where they did not allow shareholders to ask any questions.
You can find our podcast by searching for Free Speech Union on Apple podcasts or Spotify or wherever else good podcasts are found.
We rely on each one of our almost 75,000 Free Speech Union supporters to fight with us to do the work of standing up to big corporations, challenging the government, and championing the importance of free speech.
Thank you for your support.
Free Speech Union