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Free Speech Union Event A Bust

A controversial Free Speech Union event, that was intended to be held at AUT's City campus last month, was cancelled after the university said room bookings had been made incorrectly.

The event “Feminism, advocacy, and free speech: University lecture with Daphna Whitmore” was scheduled to take place in late April at City campus, according to the Free Speech Union’s Facebook advertising for the event.

However, AUT decided to cancel the group’s room booking for the event the week before. The vice-chancellor justified the cancellation saying, “We examined the nature of the booking and felt it was not suitable. It was not actually a union meeting, but being pitched as a lecture.”

FSU Chief Executive Jonathan Ayling insists the event was a union meeting with a guest speaker, and, under the Employment Relations Act, they are entitled to hold a meeting.

The Free Speech Union calls themselves an organisation who are “concerned with on-going threats to free speech and the exchange of ideas.”

It is incorporated as a trade union. Thus, according to the ERA, the FSU must allow every union member to attend at least two union meetings in each calendar year.

The event was cancelled to members of the public, but FSU members decided to meet at AUT anyway, saying the event was open to AUT staff members. On the day, the gathering appeared to attract under a dozen people.

In a video posted to the Facebook event page, the scheduled speaker Daphna Whitmore said it was “ironic” that an event talking about cancellation was cancelled.

Whitmore is associated with the group Speak Up for Women who have courted controversy surrounding their views on trans* issues.

A billboard put up by the group in Wellington in July last year defining a woman as “adult human female” was taken down 24 hours later.

Free Speech Union say they will continue to work on rescheduling the event.


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