Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Put It to the Test Case: Letters[1]

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Put It to the Test Case: Letters[1]

Article excerpt

The Feminist and Women's Studies Association condemns the guidance on external speakers recently released by UUK. We believe it is poorly conceived and will serve only to reinforce women's already marginalised position in UK universities.

The depressing truth is that women continue to experience prejudice and discrimination on campus. They are under-represented at the professorial and senior management levels, and female students continue to be victimised as a result of a "lad culture" that condones sexual harassment and assault.

Protections for freedom of speech do not entitle institutions to instigate policies that actively discriminate against already marginalised groups. As secular, state-funded institutions, universities have a responsibility to prevent discrimination, victimisation and harassment, yet by privileging the wishes of religious and political speakers over the wider rights of women, they fail in this fundamental duty.

Universities would rightly be condemned for promoting segregation on the grounds of race, sexuality or disability, and so the sole exception of segregation on the basis of gender cannot be tolerated. The UUK guidance encourages universities to "be mindful to ensure that the freedom of speech of the religious group or speaker is not curtailed unlawfully", but demonstrates no concern to protect the rights of those who would be excluded from such events because they do not wish to be discriminated against. …

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