After being postponed last term due to security concerns, the York Free Speech society has announced that their event, ‘Feminism and Free Speech’ featuring Julie Bindel, will take place on the 4th of May.
The event has been reclassified as a ‘special meeting’ due to the requirement of security being present. Tickets must be shown on entry alongside student/staff ID and the location will not be announced until 48 hours before the event.
According to the University of York Safeguarding Framework, “the University is committed to providing a safe and secure environment for all staff, students and visitors who access its services and facilities.”
“The University has a duty of care to take all reasonable measures necessary to protect the health, safety, and welfare of our students and to prevent activities that could result in harm to others.”
Patrick O’Donnell, YUSU President, said:
“YUSU has been working closely with the Free Speech Society and the University of York to ensure that the Society’s event with Julie Bindel can go ahead safely.
“We continue to balance our commitment to student wellbeing and our duty of care to all members of the University of York community, alongside our duty to uphold freedom of speech within the law.
“We are listening to members that have concerns about the event and we will continue to support those that wish to protest peacefully to do so.”
In a post on Instagram, the Free Speech society stated that:
“It’s clear that discussions on different types of feminism, pornography and particularly prostitution are extremely contentious (even more so than we’d expect) so this is a good opportunity to prove people wrong and handle them in a considered and nuanced way.”
On their Twitter page, the Free Speech society stated that Bindel is welcome on campus, commenting that:
“[The society is] founded on the value of embracing disagreement and curiosity [.] It makes conversations like these more interesting. Building confidence in engaging with those you disagree with is an essential life skill.
“The goal of our event with [Julie Bindel] is considered and nuanced discussion on different types of feminism. We welcome mature debate but will not welcome abuse or unfounded accusations such as our guest founding her career on ‘supporting the mass genocide of sex workers’.”
The Free Speech society spoke to Vision, stating that:
“We are pleased to have managed to get the event rearranged. The campaign to have Julie Bindel de-platformed has failed. We are happy that the University and Union are maintaining their duty to uphold free speech and academic freedom.
“We invite anyone who has strong opinions on the topics being discussed to attend the event and engage in healthy debate. Feminism is not something that will ever reach a consensus.”
Vision received a statement from the president of York’s Feminist Society, Loz Green.
“It angers and upsets me that the University have allowed this event to go ahead despite the number of students coming forward with their frustrations and fears around the transphobic views Bindel openly promotes in her feminism.
“As a non-binary individual (who is representing and leading a society with a growing trans community) I feel as if the university is ignoring its LGBTQ+ students and prioritising the platforming of hateful speech over the protection of its’ trans students.
“As a society, FemSoc has vouched to protest during Bindel’s visit as we feel her views are not representative of the intersectional feminism we promote and do not want to be associated with her or the Free Speech society in any way.”
Vision also received a statement from the LGBTQ+ Officers Ziggy Pavey and Katie Wiseman.
“We’re really disappointed by the decision the uni has made to allow this event to continue after all the concerns we raised. Students have a right to feel safe on campus and allowing a speaker to come and debate the rights of sex workers and trans people on campus is disrespectful to those students who identify as such.
“We want to emphasise our support for students and will be holding a demonstration to protest hate speech and raise awareness on the real experiences of trans people, queer people and sex workers.”
When speaking to Vision, newly elected Women and Non-Binary officer Izzy Andrews also expressed their disappointment.
“For the majority at York, Julie Bindel is not welcome at this university. After her previous event was cancelled, we, as a network, were hoping that the Students’ Union would uphold and maintain some sense of support for trans students and sex workers in the university. However, much to our disappointment, the event has been rescheduled, allowing Bindel onto our campus.
“As a network, we do not support the Free Speech society’s plans to allow her to speak here, and I am hugely disappointed that more isn’t being done to protect our student population. In the name of free speech, protests will be occurring and these will be supported by our network.”
Any student experiencing psychological or mental health difficulties does not have to struggle alone. Support is available through the University at University of York Report & Support Tool and YUSU LGBTQ+ Network.
Stonewall UK can offer help and support – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them on 0800 0502020 from 9:30am-4:30pm Monday to Friday, or visit Stonewall Help & Advice to find your nearest branch.