Removal of Auckland University Club Threatens Free Speech

Published: Thu 17 Aug 2017 09:05 AM
Removal of Student Club at Auckland University Threatens Free Speech
Prolife Auckland announced today at a student forum its determination to fight a renewed attempt by Auckland University Students’ Association (AUSA) to disaffiliate them. An online referendum is to occur next week proposing the motion: "Should AUSA disaffiliate the Pro Life Club and ban any clubs with similar ideology from affiliating in the future?"
“This referendum is an attempt to punish the exercise of free speech on campus,” says ProLife Auckland spokesperson Francesca Yuen. “The free exchange of ideas is an integral part of academia; any attempt to repress that deserves condemnation.”
Disaffiliation from AUSA will entail losing access to material services that AUSA provides. Prolife Auckland also views disaffiliation as symbolically denying recognition by the student body of the ideals that the club holds dear - a culture that respects life at any and all stages.
Yuen also expresses concerns about due process. “When asked, AUSA could not disclose the identity of the individual who submitted the proposal or the nature of the allegations being made about us. Furthermore, we were provided with less than a week’s notice of the forum. This is a violation of principles of natural justice.”
“We were required to defend our affiliation today with limited information of the source and scope of accusations against the club. The person who submitted the motion did not even appear at the student forum to substantiate the grounds of their motion. Why is AUSA facilitating this faceless attack on our club?”
“We have always been committed to open and civil debate, yet AUSA constantly attempts to silence our views. It is not the first attempt to ban our club: an SGM in 2012 and a fizzled disaffiliation attempt in 2016 make this the third such attempt in five years. No other group has received the same level of continued scrutiny and protest as ours on campus.”
AUSA is aware of the irregularity in this referendum and has engaged a lawyer to comment on its legality. It is interesting that they have gone ahead with the proceedings while still questioning whether they are in fact legal.
Issues raised at the forum included concern about the vague phrasing of the motion, and the slippery precedent it sets for silencing clubs with similar stances.
“We are proud to have defended today not only our rights but the rights of other clubs which challenge prevailing orthodoxy on campus,” Yuen concluded.
The referendum is to take place next week from Monday 21st August to Friday 25th August.

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