Segregation fine, says Universities UK

I’m amazed by this. Really amazed. A group of university vice-chancellors in the UK has “issued guidance” saying that it’s ok for students to be segregated during debates as long as they’re beside each other not in front and behind.

Are they out of their minds??

The Telegraph reports.

Universities can segregate students during debates as long as the women are not forced to sit behind the men, university leaders have said.

Segregation at the behest of a controversial speaker is an issue which arises “all the time” and banning men and women from sitting next to each during debates is a “big issue” facing universities, Universities UK has said.

As a result they have issued guidance which suggests that segregation is likely to be acceptable as long as men and women are seated side by side and one party is not at a disadvantage.

Really? Really, university vice-chancellors? “Likely to be acceptable” to whom?

Would the university vice-chancellors say that if the categories were not women and men but Jews and Gentiles? Blacks and whites? Muslims and Hindus? Dalits and everyone else? Workers and toffs?

This business about ‘Segregation at the behest of a controversial speaker is an issue which arises “all the time”’ – oh yes? Why does it? Because there are so many reactionary theocrats working hard to spread their reactionary theocratic rules? In other words, because there are so many Islamists wanting to speak and universities inviting them to speak because they are “controversial”? Yes. So imagine a UK university invites David Irving to debate his “controversial” views, and he demands that Jews be segregated. Would the VCs say that was likely to be acceptable provided the Jews didn’t have to sit in the back? Would they entertain the suggestion for an instant? I don’t think so.

In a new guidance on external speakers, vice-chancellors’ group Universities UK says that universities face a complex balance of promoting freedom of speech without breaking equality and discrimination laws.

No they don’t. Freedom of speech doesn’t depend on allowing “controversial” speakers to demand that women be segregated.

The report adds: “Assuming the side-by-side segregated seating arrangement is adopted, there does not appear to be any discrimination on gender grounds merely by imposing segregated seating. Both men and women are being treated equally, as they are both being segregated in the same way.”

Jesus fucking Christ. Apartheid? Jim Crow laws? Ghettos? “Whites Only” signs? Not to mention the fact that these “controversial” speakers will have views about women that are unmistakably and dramatically discriminatory: that’s the main thing that makes them “controversial”!

Apart from the controversies surrounding segregation, Universities UK say that academic institutions are facing a legal minefield when organising external speakers and their guidance aims to help them find the balance.

An example of the fine balance is illustrated when the report goes on to say that if side-by-side seating was enforced without offering an alternative non-segregated seating area, it could be deemed as discriminatory against men or women who hold feminist beliefs.

It adds: “Concerns to accommodate the wishes or beliefs of those opposed to segregation should not result in a religious group being prevented from having a debate in accordance with its belief system.”

Well that’s a handy way to dismiss the whole idea of universal human rights – just label the ones that cover half of humanity “feminist beliefs” and then label that a belief system on all fours with religious belief systems. Zip, job done, women relegated to second class status in the blink of an eye.

The report presents some hypothetical case studies which come up on campuses, including whether a speaker from an ultraorthodox religious group requests an audience is segregated by gender.

“These are issues that are arising all the time and these are really difficult issues,” said Universities UK chief executive Nicola Dandridge.

“What emerged from our work on this particular issue is that there is no clearly defined right or wrong here as to whether to allow or outlaw segregation. It is going to very much depend on the facts of the case.”

You made a mistake somewhere then. Go back and check your arithmetic. Find the mistake. Don’t come back until you have.

A strict policy of segregated seating between males and females

The University of Leicester had a gender segregation problem too, also in connection with Hamza Tzortzis.

The talk, entitled Does God Exist?, featured a guest speaker Hamza Tzortzis as part of an Islamic Awareness week. Seating at the event was segregated, with different entrances into the lecture theatre for men and women.

In Leicester, more than 100 students attended the segregated event, which took place last month. A photograph passed to the Guardian shows signs put up in a university building, directing the segregation.

A message on the group’s website says: “In all our events, [the society] operate a strict policy of segregated seating between males and females.” The statement was removed after the Guardian contacted the society. [Read more…]

UCL looks the other way

Chris Moos sent me a new statement from the Concerned Students about the iERA event at UCL. It turns out that UCL wasn’t as uninvolved as it claimed.

Despite denial, UCL staff found to have actively enforced gender segregation

Following the events of March 9th, UCL has denied that its members of staff were allowing the enforced gender segregation on attendees, and issued a statement that alleged that UCL had responded appropriately to warnings from student, putting measures in place that only failed to protect students because the organiser iERA acted in counter of them (see annex). New evidence has now emerged that UCL has neglected its duty of care towards students to an unprecedented amount, with UCL staff not only tolerating, but also actively enforcing gender segregation.

An individual who identified herself as “Dr Aisha Rahman”, who claimed that she was “teaching at UCL Chemistry” and that she had “booked the room on behalf of UCL Chemistry”, said the segregation had been agreed with the university and repeatedly refused two students, Christopher Roche and Adam Barnett, access to the venue unless they complied with the segregated seating plan. [Read more…]

iERA Investigates

iERA has issued a press release with the heading

iERA Investigates Complaints about Seating Arrangements at the debate, “Islam or Atheism: Which Makes More Sense?”

It reports that UCL doesn’t want iERA doing any more talks at UCL, because of the gender segregation.

UCL’s reasoning is that they do not allow enforced segregation on any grounds at meetings held on campus and their assertion is that “attempts were made to enforce segregation at the meeting (sic).” iERA complied with the request from the University to cater for all preferences by having seating that was open for all attendees, male or female, and two sections to accommodate those that wished to adhere to their deeply held religious beliefs.

Ahhhhhh look how they word that, the tricksy buggers. They make it look as if the university requested two sections to accommodate those that wished to adhere to their deeply held religious beliefs. [Read more…]

Told that security would remove him from the premises

The UCL student paper reports on Saturday’s exciting events.

The event, held as part of Hamza Tzortzis ‘Islamic Awareness Tour’, featured the public speaker Tzortzis debating against cosmologist and professor of Physics, Lawrence Krauss on the topic of ‘Islam or Atheism: Which Makes More Sense?’ However, attendees soon began to question the organisation of the event when an email sent by the Islamic Education and Research Academy (IERA) and the organisers of the event, informed attendees that seating allocation would be decided by “when the ticket was booked and gender”. However, when concerned students contacted UCL, they were assured by Fiona McClement, the university’s Equalities and Diversities Adviser, that all attendees were “free to sit wherever they feel comfortable”, and that this had been made clear to IERA.

And yet when the time came, this turned out not to be the case. Separate entrances, and seating separated into men’s, women’s, and a “mixed” area for couples… [Read more…]

This was not the first time

Student Rights tells us about several university events in London that have been promoted as “fully segregated.”

This even includes events featuring Tzortzis at UCL, with the audience at an event attended by our researcher Rupert Sutton at the School of Pharmacy in October 2012 seating women at the back of the hall and men at the front.

During 2012 Student Rights also logged several events which were advertised in this way, with a speech given by Dr Khalid Fikry at London Metropolitan University in June pronounced “FULLY SEGREGATED!!!

In January the same was true at London South Bank University, where an event encouraging non-Muslims to attend was advertised as “100 Per Cent Segregated”. [Read more…]

Krauss says no

Dana Sondergaard attended the debate at UCL yesterday, and she recorded a video of Lawrence Krauss packing up his things and leaving because the gender segregation he’d objected to was still being enforced. It’s a public post on Facebook.

“No!” he says, making the “no” gesture with his hands. “No gender segregation or I’m out of here.”

More on yesterday at UCL

Chris Moos has written again to UCL, and urges others to do the same. He gives a detailed account of how the gender segregation was enforced and what a crap job UCL did of interfering with it. Hello world, it’s 2013, and University College London is allowing segregated events on its campus. Chris has given me permission to quote his letter.

Following up on the emails I had sent you on Thursday and Friday, I am writing to inform you that I was shocked about the manner in which the Islam or Atheism: The Big Debate event was carried out yesterday.

1) The organisers clearly and repeatedly violated UCL’s Equality and Diversity policy. Not only did they enforce gender segregation, but five security guards of the organiser intimidated and attempted to physically remove audience members who refused to comply, falsely claiming that these attendees had been disruptive. Both male and female audience members felt intimidated by the actions of the organiser’s security guards.

Only after Professor Krauss threatened thrice to leave the debate if the organisers should continue to enforce gender segregation (follow this link: ), the organisers cleared one row of the women’s area and allowed the male attendees to sit there, thereby maintaining forced gender segregation. Notably, the women who were sitting in that row were not asked by the security guards whether they would feel comfortable with a man sitting next to them, or whether they would be willing to move. Forced gender segregation was thus maintained. [Read more…]

Yesterday at UCL

Richard Dawkins has a fuller account of what happened yesterday at the “Islam or Atheism?” debate at UCL, via Krauss himself.

A few days ago, I had received a tip-off from somebody who had made an inquiry about tickets: ‘We contacted the organizers today and learnt that “as for seating, it is according to when the ticket was booked and gender”.’

I’m guessing that somebody was Chris Moos, since he’s been all over this and I don’t know of anyone else who has. Chris does great work.

I passed this on to Lawrence, with the suggestion that he might consider withdrawing from the whole affair. He immediately asked the organizers, who assured him that the audience would not be segregated by sex, and Lawrence agreed to go ahead. [Read more…]