UUK speaks at last


Universities UK has issued a press release on the gender segregation issue.

Statement from Universities UK:

Universities UK’s publication External speakers in higher education institutions aims to provide guidance to institutions in managing the process for inviting external speakers onto campus, both in terms of upholding principles of free speech, and also complying with the law. It was produced with significant input from a range of organisations and individuals (referenced in the full report) as well as extensive legal advice.

The guidance is not prescriptive. It is intended to provide practical assistance to universities in making decisions about who they choose to invite to speak on campus, steering them through all the different considerations, legal and otherwise, that apply. Universities are independent institutions and will make decisions themselves on a case by case basis.

The guidance includes a hypothetical case study (case study 2) involving an external speaker invited to talk about his orthodox religious faith, who had subsequently requested segregated seating areas for men and women. The case study considers the facts, the relevant law and the questions that the university should ask, and concludes that if neither women nor men were disadvantaged and a non-segregated seating area were also provided, it might in the specific circumstances of the case be appropriate for the university to agree to the request.

Defensive. It’s guidance! There was extensive input! The guidance is not prescriptive! We were just trying to help! Universities are independent and they don’t have to listen to us anyway!

And then they just recycle the same bullshit  – “and concludes that if neither women nor men were disadvantaged and a non-segregated seating area were also provided, it might in the specific circumstances of the case be appropriate for the university to agree to the request.” But the trouble with that of course is that UUK buys the ridiculous claim that formal pre-arranged gender segregation can possibly be anything other than disadvantageous to women. It ignores history, it ignores much of the world, it ignores reality. It ignores the obvious objection, which many many people raised: the objection that segregation of, say, Jews and non-Jews, or blacks and whites, or gay and straight, would not be “appropriate” even if there were a non-segregated seating area also provided. You may remember that Nick Cohen asked Nicola Dandridge about that point and her utterly dense reply was that Parliament had made racial segregation against the law. You may also remember that he asked her why is sex different then, and that she said “because it’s visible.” Yes really.

The guidance does not promote gender segregation. When faced with requests for segregated seating, universities will consider all the circumstances: they will consider questions of disadvantage to men or women, and will inform themselves about the speaker’s views and the context of the event. Many, taking account of all factors, may legitimately refuse the request. It is for example very hard to see any university agreeing to a request for segregation that was not voluntary and did not have the broad support of those attending. But with different circumstances, as with the case study, the university may agree to it.

No, UUK, it may not. Stop issuing “guidance” that says universities may accept discriminatory practices at the behest of external speakers who demand them on religious grounds. Just stop.

The case study has generated considerable public concern and media coverage, some of which raised questions about our previous legal advice. In the light of that, we sought an opinion from senior counsel, Fenella Morris QC. We have now received her advice which confirms that the guidance is correct and provides an appropriate foundation for lawful decision-making. The advice is also clear that in adjudicating between conflicting priorities in relation to gender and religion, institutions have to balance a range of competing interests and strike a fair balance between them having regard to all the individual circumstances of each case. A copy of senior counsel’s advice is available at the link below (see notes).

Given the continuing public concern we have also today written to the Equality and Human Rights Commission to request that they consider having the issue clarified by the High Court or provide a clear and public statement about the law and the relevant policy considerations in this area.

That one sentence is…quite frightening.

The advice is also clear that in adjudicating between conflicting priorities in relation to gender and religion, institutions have to balance a range of competing interests and strike a fair balance between them having regard to all the individual circumstances of each case.

In other words universities have to “strike a fair balance” between theocracy and women’s rights. Jesus fucking christ.

 

Comments

  1. says

    Wow I didn’t know weasels were that good at digging deep holes!
    And not knowing when to stop.

    And anyway if a uni provides “a non-segregated seating area” wouldn’t that rather destroy the whole argument for segregating what would then be only part of the audience?
    That part I don’t get.

  2. Shatterface says

    And anyway if a uni provides “a non-segregated seating area” wouldn’t that rather destroy the whole argument for segregating what would then be only part of the audience?
    That part I don’t get.

    Exactly. The issue isn’t about where people want to sit its about where someone else is demanding that they sit.

    If this isn’t illegal it’s only because its such a fucking no-brainer that nobody thought anyone would have to take legal advice before making a decision.

  3. NitricAcid says

    The segregators claim that virtuous Muslim women do not want to sit with men, and need to be protected from western men who would rudely and forcefully sit in their vicinity. If there were a non-segregated area in addition to women-only and men-only sections, then their concerns for the virtuous women are addressed.

  4. karmacat says

    I suggest that a speaker come and suggest that the races be segregated (but, of course, not have one group seated behind another). I would like to see how the UUK would deal with this request because according to them, it would be okay unless one has advantages over another group.

  5. says

    You may remember that Nick Cohen asked Nicola Dandridge about that point and her utterly dense reply was that Parliament had made racial segregation against the law. You may also remember that he asked her why is sex different then, and that she said “because it’s visible.” Yes really.

    No, I must have missed that. What is going on in the heads of people who say things like that? How obtuse can one get?

  6. karmacat says

    How about short vs tall people, becaue that is “visible.” It does sound like the real problem is that they are making accomodations for religion as if religious people have valid requests but no one else does.

  7. Francisco Bacopa says

    if they want to have a lecture open to the public in a mosque, I think they have a right to request gender segregation. I also think the public has a right to ignore that request. If they didn’t want that request ignored they should not have invited the public.

    There should be no gender segregation even asked for in any other venue. If they won’t speak unless they ask for it, then they don’t speak. And don’t let me hear them whine about their rights being denied.

    Religious people are the same everywhere. Always whining. Cry me a river while playing the worlds tiniest violin.

  8. noxiousnan says

    I read the full advise of Ms Morris – quite a dance, I must say. I then looked up her bio, and found this to be a pertinent quote:

    renowned for her ability to argue a difficult case

  9. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    UUK on the external legal opinion?

    We have now received her advice which confirms that the guidance is correct

    No. The outside legal counsel, despite clearly advocating for a client rather than expressing a neutral opinion, says that the “guidance” is “lawful”.

    Well I, for one, am quite happy that their advice wasn’t so horrific that merely by existing as words it broke the law.

    It’s also nice that external counsel agrees that the laws cited in the document are actually laws.

    Somehow, I don’t remember those 2 things being a central part of the criticism, however. Perhaps I’m just missing the point.

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