The Student Association of Edinburgh University (EUSA) had a meeting a few hours ago. There were many items on the agenda. One item was a motion by the Humanist Society (a subgroup of the Student Association) to
Commit to disallowing imposed or directed segregation, based on any characteristic, in EUSA buildings or at EUSA events.
The Treasurer of the Humanist Society, Jonathan Ainslie, reports that the motion was heavily voted down. Yes that’s right: down.
The Humanist Society submitted a motion to Student Council – EUSA’s policy-setting body – for a ban on imposed or directed segregation on union premises, or at union events.
Voluntary segregation was explicitly permitted. The motion was entitled “Separate but Equal.”
That motion fell heavily, after a number of opposing speeches which either stated or implied that the society’s motivations were racist and Islamophobic.
Here is the whole motion, available on the Society’s Facebook page:
Separate but Equal
What will we do?
- Commit to disallowing imposed or directed segregation, based on any characteristic, in EUSA buildings or at EUSA events.
- Petition the University of Edinburgh to prohibit imposed or directed segregation in University of Edinburgh buildings or at University of Edinburgh events.
- Acknowledge that voluntary non-directed segregation is permissible.
- Ask that Universities UK (UUK) clarify their position on segregation.
- Ask that the National Union of Students (NUS) clarify their position on segregation.
- Publicly endorse and support Stewart Maxwell MSP’s Motion S4M-08419: Universities UK Guidance on Gender Segregation at Scottish Institutes of Higher Education.
What is the background to this?
- Universities UK published guidance that gender segregation at events may be appropriate. The NUS claimed that the guidance had their full support, and was drafted with their assistance.
- UUK has since retracted their guidance. The NUS has since distanced itself from “endorsement” of enforced segregation, but is yet to express opposition to the idea.
- Students Rights has noted that at least 40 gender-segregated events took place within a one year period, at 21 higher education institutions in the UK. At one such event, a purely academic debate on Islam and atheism, despite prior assurances to the contrary, three audience members were ejected for refusing to comply with enforced gender segregation.
- Segregation on racial grounds is illegal, as noted by Universities UK.
- EUSA operates a Zero Tolerance policy towards discrimination based on gender and gender identity.
- Gender segregation requires that trans* and non-binary individuals identify themselves publicly.
The UK Supreme Court deputy president recently ruled that, “To permit someone to discriminate on the ground that he did not believe that persons of homosexual orientation should be treated equally with persons of heterosexual orientation would be to create a class of people who were
- exempt from discrimination legislation.” Allowing imposed gender segregation would similarly create a class of people exempt from discrimination legislation.
- Stewart Maxwell MSP has lodged a Scottish Parliament motion opposing segregation in universities. Michael Gove MP has called the guidance “wrong and harmful”.
What beliefs motivate the actions you propose?
- That EUSA should be pro-active in tackling issues of concern.
- That segregation as originally recommended by Universities UK is anathema to the principles of equality, and should not be tolerated.
- That “separate but equal” is a pernicious doctrine.
- That preventing a person or persons from oppressing others is not oppression itself.
- That religiously-motivated discrimination is no more deserving of respect or toleration than is politically-motivated discrimination.
- Gender segregation is no more acceptable than would be racial segregation.
- If segregation is enforced by gender, the case against segregation by race, religion, sexual orientation and disability has been profoundly weakened.
[Update to include amendment I omitted for no special reason]
Amendment 1 (Proposer: Kirsty Haigh)
Amend ‘What will we do?’ point 1 to read:
1. Commit to disallowing imposed or directed segregation, based on any characteristic, in EUSA buildings or at EUSA events with the exception of:
1.1 toilets and changing rooms
1.2 liberation groups who wish to exclude those who do not self-identify into that particular group
With a list of signatories at the end.
Voted down. In Edinburgh of all places. Hume’s statue will haunt their dreams.
Major thanks to Helen Dale for this.