Uni’s transgender bid ‘stifling free speech’

06 Sep Uni’s transgender bid ‘stifling free speech’

Rebecca Urban – The Australian – Friday 06 September

A Deakin University student club says it has been censored over ­ social­ media posts criticising gender­ ideology and a new Victorian­ law that makes it easier for trans­gender people to alter their birth certificates.

Members of the Deakin University Liberal Club have accused the university’s student association of curtailing free speech after it requested they delete Facebook posts deemed to be a breach of its social media policy.

One of the posts, from the Liberal­ club’s Geelong branch last month, referred to the Victorian government passing of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Amendment Bill as failing to “stack up with scientific fact”.

The post included a quote from George Orwell’s 1984 and linked to a news report in The Age.

Another allegedly offending post contained a short video titled “There Are Only Two Genders” by US author Ashley McGuire, which challenges gender ideology and the increasingly popular push for self-identified gender to supersede biological sex.

The club opted to remove the posts after being threatened with disciplinary action.

However, the Deakin University Liberal Club at the Burwood campus has declined to delete an August 31 post in which it wrote about meeting Liberal MPs at Victoria­’s Parliament House.

“Fantastic conversations were had particularly about the dis­as­trous births, deaths and marriages registration bill, allowing people to change the sex recorded on their birth certificate on a 12-month basis simply through self-selection,” the post said.

While the new law and its potenti­al consequences have been the subject of widespread public debate, the club was contacted by the Deakin University Student Association on Tuesday advising that the post had sparked complaints and requesting its removal.

“The post has been deemed in breach of DUSA’s social media policy,” wrote DUSA clubs support­ officer Sophie Elizabeth.

While no specific reason was provided, Ms Elizabeth referred to a clause within the policy that states “examples of unacceptable social media conduct include posting commentary, content or images that are defamatory, porno­graphic, proprietary, harass­ing … or that can create a hostile environment”.

Deakin University Liberal Club Burwood president Luke Dalle Nogare described the association’s censorship bid as “frivolous and arrogant”.

“There aren’t many conservative views on campus, so it’s ­important for us to be strong and represent those voices,” he said.

“Sure it’s a somewhat contentious issue but we’re not making any extremist views in any sense.”

Changes to Victoria’s birth certificate law were passed on August 27 permitting a person to alter the sex on their birth certificate to reflect their gender identity without having to first undergo gender reassignment surgery. While the bill received majority support in both houses, it drew opposition from Liberal and Nationals MPs and some feminist groups, who were concerned about biological males who identify as trans women ­accessing women’s private spaces.

Liberal senator James Paterson described the student association’s actions as an “outrageous attempt at censorship”.

“Topical public policy issues on which good people can disagree surely must be free for university students to debate on campus and on social media,” he said.

“This is part of a worrying trend on university campuses that threaten their role as custodians of academic freedom and free and open inquiry.

“It’s long past time for univer­sity administrators to step up and protect the rights of their students to freely participate in debates without fear of retribution.”

University vice-chancellors have been under pressure to ­accept a new code that ensures freedom of lawful speech and academic­ freedom, amid concerns that some university behavioural policies are potentially restrictive.

Representatives from the stud­ent association did not respond to requests for comment.

A Deakin spokeswoman said the issue was an “operational matter­ for DUSA”.

“Deakin University values respect­, diversity and freedom of speech,” she said.

“We believe the right to speak freely carries the responsibility of embracing difference and nurturing a connected, safe and respectful community.”

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