The Guardian reports. Universities UK, the bod that represents university vice-chancellors (not universities themselves, contrary to what the Guardian says),
has withdrawn guidance on the gender segregation of audiences in lectures and debates after the prime minister, David Cameron, said it should not be allowed to happen.
So……………for once, IT WORKED. Making a stink worked. It was just a few people making a stink at first. You know that; you saw the whole thing.
Universities UK said a controversial case study setting out the guidance was being withdrawn while it reviewed its stance, but insisted the legal position remained unclear on whether the voluntary separation of men and women could be allowed at events such as lectures on Islam by visiting speakers.
Cameron’s spokesman had earlier said Universities UK should urgently review the guidance.
His intervention followed comments by the education secretary, Michael Gove, who accused the body that represents universities of “pandering to extremists”.
It’s a damn good thing Jack Straw talked to the Today programme yesterday, so that we don’t have to think this is a purely Tory view. Nevertheless…why is UUK stupider about human rights than the Tories are (on this particular issue)? Awkward!
Universities UK issued the guidance following a series of Islamic events at campuses at which male and female students had been separated.
They weren’t “Islamic events.” They were open to the public. That’s the issue.
The prime minister’s spokesman said: “There is an issue around speakers who are invited into universities. He doesn’t think that guest speakers should be able to address segregated audiences and he thinks that Universities UK should urgently review its guidance.
“There is an important issue around principle and possible risks around discrimination. I think [Cameron] feels very strongly about this.”
The spokesman made clear that the PM wanted a ban on gender-segregated audiences on campus even where men and women voluntarily separated themselves.
He also stressed that the prime minister’s views did not extend to places of worship such as mosques, synagogues or gurdwaras.
Well, I gotta bite the bullet and go with Cameron on this one.
The intervention comes the day after the education secretary said the guidance, which has also been branded not permissible by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), was a “disgrace”.
“We should not pander to extremism. Speakers who insist on segregating audiences should not be indulged by educators. This guidance is wrong and harmful. Universities UK should withdraw it immediately,” Gove told the Daily Mail.
On Thursday Universities UK, which represents more than 130 higher education institutions, said it was seeking a definitive legal view on the issue from the EHRC after its London headquarters were targeted by student protesters this week.
The EHRC said it was involved in redrafting sections in guidance that said that Muslim and other groups were permitted to voluntarily segregate men and women at events. Its chief executive, Mark Hammond, told the Telegraph: “Equality law permits gender segregation in premises that are permanently or temporarily being used for the purposes of an organised religion where its doctrines require it.
“However, in an academic meeting or in a lecture open to the public it is not, in the commission’s view, permissible to segregate by gender.”