Brash up-platformed in university debate tonight

Massey University received almost universal criticism and derision after they cancelled a political society meeting that Don Brash was scheduled to speak at. It was widely seen as an attack on free speech, with some saying it was proof of a slippery slope for free speech.

Brash got far more publicity than he would received at Massey, and he gets a chance to be in the spotlight at Auckland University tonight. He was booked to participate in a debate long before the Molynuex & Southern and Massey furores arose.

Coincidentally and ironically, tonight’s debate is on “Has PC culture gone too far to the point of limiting freedom of speech?”

Freedom of Speech Public Debate

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Freedom of speech is a value which is fundamental to New Zealand society. But at what point should we prevent speech which is offensive, bigoted, hurtful or that we disagree with? Has PC culture gone too far to the point where it is limiting freedom of speech?

The University of Auckland Debating Society is proud to present the inaugural Think Big Debate – a debate series which will explore the big issues in New Zealand Society. The inaugural Think Big Debate is going to examine whether PC culture has gone too far and is limiting freedom of speech.

Don Brash (of the Free Speech coalition) and Elliot Ikilei (Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party) will affirm the motion and Fran O’Sullivan (Head of Business at the New Zealand Herald) and Simon Wilson (Senior Writer at the New Zealand Herald) will negate the motion.

They will each be joined by two of the university’s top debaters. With Freedom of Speech in the headlines both in New Zealand and overseas you won’t want to miss this event.

Absolutely everyone is welcome at this public debate. Check out the Facebook event for more information.

 

‘De-platformed’ is a new word for me. In this case it has backfired and turned into upping Brash’s platform.

Stuff: Don Brash free speech debate in Auckland booms on back of Massey’s ban

Massey University’s ban on Don Brash making a speech on its Palmerston North campus has proved a boon for rival Auckland University.

Double the number of people expected to attend Brash’s Auckland appearance have now registered since Massey axed Brash and ignited another free speech debate.

The controversy has been a marketing gift for the otherwise low key Auckland function organised by the university’s debate society.

There is planned protest: Students and Staff to protest Don Brash speaking at University of Auckland

A New University has organised a public protest opposing the inclusion of Don Brash in a University of Auckland Debating Society event to be held on campus on Thursday 9th August at 6.00pm in the Owen G Glenn building.

“Brash’s haste to come to the defense of far-right ideologues Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux shows his commitment to the right to spread hate speech with no consideration of the consequences for those targeted by racial abuse and discrimination.

“Universities are legislatively bound to act as the ‘critic and conscience of society’. Condemning any platform for hate speech is a rare opportunity for the University community to fulfil this crucial role.

“The University of Auckland equity policy acknowledges the distinct status of Māori as tangata whenua and is committed to partnerships that acknowledge the principles of the Treaty. Hosting Brash directly contravenes equity principles and the protection of students and staff from discrimination.

“A New University calls on University of Auckland management to follow through on its equity policy and strategic plan emphasis on promoting Māori presence and participation in all aspects of University life.

“A New University joins the struggle of those at Massey University in refusing to accommodate hatred, bigotry and racism in their institutions. Universities must uphold the principles of Te Tiriti and ensure the safety of students and staff on campus.

There does not seem to be an obvious Maori participant in the debate, but that may be addressed froom four of “the university’s top debaters” who are as yet unnamed.

UPDATE:

Up-platformed and live.

Russell McVeagh, law faculties under fire

The spotlight on inappropriate behaviour in legal circles continues, with more distancing from law firm Russell McVeagh, and the Auckland University joining Otago in the firing line.

Women’s Law Journal: Russell McVeagh & NZ Women’s Law Journal

Until now, we have not commented on the complaints of sexual assault against Russell McVeagh. Russell McVeagh is one of the Journal’s sponsors and we have taken this time to consider our relationship with the firm.

The complainants have faced trauma two years ago and again with recent publicity. Our go out to the women involved. You are not alone: we and many others stand with you and hope to support you however we can. Russell McVeagh, the profession and society have failed you by enabling a culture in which these assaults could happen.

We have had a frank conversation with Russell McVeagh about the complaints, the firm’s culture and the steps the firm has taken subsequently. Russell McVeagh seem to have genuine concern for the complainants and have told us of their endeavours to do best by them and ensure this never happens again.

In spite of this, we feel it is best for us to put our relationship on hold so that Russell McVeagh can review its policies, practices and culture.

The events of the last few weeks show that the problem is far broader than Russell McVeagh. It is not an issue of working long hours and alcohol-fuelled social events, which are a normal part of professional life. The issue is deeper than that: it is about the sexist thinking that people have failed to challenge for far too long. Anything else is a scapegoat. We believe that now is the time for the leaders of our profession to take responsibility and initiate change.

We are deeply disappointed by many of the responses from senior members of the profession in recent days. The women involved and anyone who has suffered because of the inappropriate actions of others deserve our support. They also deserve a comprehensive, creative and paradigm-shifting response.

There have been heartening and proactive responses from other members of the profession.

We support these positive actions and would like to lend a hand wherever we can. Of particular note, we would like to mention the Wellington Women Lawyers’ Association, Elizabeth Hall and Zoë Lawton who have taken it upon themselves to institute fora where anyone can speak out about their experiences and be heard. In the coming months, we will also be taking action to help change our profession for good.

We will not be silent any longer.

NZH: School debating competition drops law firm Russell McVeagh after sexual harassment scandal

School debaters have dropped their sponsoring law firm Russell McVeagh, as public reaction continues to mount over alleged sexual harassment of the firm’s female interns.

NZ Schools’ Debating Council vice-president Nicholas Cross said the council had put its relationship with the firm “on hold”.

“Russell McVeagh has been the major sponsor of the NZ Schools’ Debating Council for 18 years and has been a valued and supportive partner throughout this time,” he said.

“The council was very concerned by these recent allegations. Our policy is zero tolerance for any kind of harassment.”

All six of New Zealand’s university law faculties have already distanced themselves from Russell McVeagh, but Auckland has joined Otago in the hypocrisy spotlight.

ODT: Law camp cancelled after claims

The University of Otago student law society has cancelled the law camp run for second-year students, following a series of allegations of nudity and jelly wrestling. The camp was scheduled to be held this weekend.

The camp has been highly scrutinised by former students for the levels of alcohol consumed and the activities run during the weekend.

The camp is organised by The Society of Otago University Law Students (Souls), and has been running for at least the past 10 years.

Souls had vowed to clamp down on drunkenness and ban ‘full nudity’. But yesterday it put out a statement saying the pro-vice chancellor and the university were not prepared to support the camp, previously held at Camp Iona, near Herbert.

“Without this support, regrettably, Souls is unable to run the camp this year.”

Souls president Tim Austen said the event had relied on the support of the law faculty and wider university, which provided assistance with security, while the proctor signed off an event management plan.

Faculty dean Prof Mark Henaghan has attended parts of previous camps as a guest but could not be contacted for comment yesterday.

NZH: Familiar tale of binge-drinking and nudity at Auckland University’s annual law camp

Binge drinking, skinny-dipping, and dirty-dancing competitions with extra points for nudity have occurred at the University of Auckland’s annual law camp, students claim.

The weekend-long camp on Motutapu Island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf, run by the Auckland University Law Students’ Society (AULSS), has come under scrutiny after the University of Otago student law society scrapped its law camp following allegations of nudity and jelly wrestling.

Students say that daylight hours featured healthy team-building and bonding exercises and games including obstacle courses, raft building, and orienteering.

But the evenings were dedicated to raucous parties with drinking games, vomiting, sex and seedy skits.

No staff were present but the 200-odd students were overseen by sober student leaders.

One self-described conservative, teetotal student spoken to by the Herald was shocked by the antics.

“I’m not really used to that whole situation so I kind of just assumed that’s what happens when you go to normal uni parties,” said the student, who wished to remain anonymous.

She was unfazed by the rampant binge-drinking and sex, but when her group was asked to go skinny-dipping, and then perform “racy” dance shows, she became “super-uncomfortable”.

“I wasn’t drinking but before we did the skit thing, our leaders said, ‘This whole thing would probably just be easier if you were drunk’,” the law student said.

“The more dirty the skit, the more clothes you took off, the more points you would get, at least it seemed that way. It was uncomfortable because it encouraged you to strip or be vulgar and that’s very not me.

“There was a skinny-dipping game where if you went completely in the nude then you got more points, but the entire team had to do it. That was where I felt kind of peer pressured by the sort of thinking that I have to do it because everyone else is doing it.

“It was very out of my comfort zone. But I am also the kind of person to be open to almost everything, so I was feeling really weird, I never do these kinds of things, ever. I was kind of in the head space thinking, ‘Well, what everyone else does, then maybe I should do it too’.”

She added: “I’ve always wanted to experience being drunk or doing something crazy. But I didn’t expect it to be at law camp.”

When they arrived on the island, condoms were handed out, the student said.

Throughout the weekend, she said, couples snuck off to have sex.

“There were lots of people puking, people stripping naked or taking off whatever and just dancing,” she said.

Another student posted on an online forum that they will pull out of this year’s camp after hearing that it’s “all about getting laid and drunk” and that it “should be renamed STI camp”.

University students will inevitably let their hair down and ditch their inhibitions – many are away from home for the first time in their lives, and almost all have recently been legally been able to buy and drink alcohol.

What they do in their own time is up to them.

But university organised or sanctioned over-imbibing and debauchery is inappropriate, irresponsible, and is a disservice to those students who get caught up in and pressured by group excesses.

Back to where the inappropriate legal fraternising story began, Newsroom: Ex-Russell McVeagh lawyer moves on

The man at the centre of the serious sexual assault allegations involving Russell McVeagh is no longer sharing offices with several other lawyers. He left Russell McVeagh following the allegations of serious sexual misconduct against summer clerks.

One of the lawyers at those offices confirmed to Newsroom the man at the centre of the allegations was no longer working from those offices and information about him has disappeared from the venue’s website.

Meanwhile, Russell McVeagh told Newsroom an internal project team is working towards making an announcement regarding the appointment of a non-legal external reviewer early next week.

Since Newsroomrevealed the allegations on February 14, Russell McVeagh has claimed it undertook a detailed internal investigation and the two lawyers accused by the clerks left the firm. It claims it adopted a Zero Tolerance policy to sexual harassment and abuse but will not say when that came into effect.

Newsroom also understands that ILANZ, the In-House Lawyers Association of New Zealand, has agreed with Russell McVeagh that the firm will withdraw as a Premium Sponsor of the ILANZ Conference 2018.

ILANZ president Erin Judge said it is appropriate for Russell McVeagh to focus on the external review that they have commissioned and implement the recommendations made.

“As a collective of in-house lawyers, we need to consider how inappropriate sexual conduct affects our part of the legal profession and what we are going to do about it.

“The upcoming conference provides us with an opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to a safe and healthy work environment and to encourage discussion of these issues. Continued sponsorship by Russell McVeagh would be a distraction from this important discussion.

“Sexual harassment, assault and unsafe working conditions are not limited to one firm or one part of the legal profession. We all have a role and responsibility in driving change. We are mindful of this as we finalise our conference programme and continue to focus on the best interests of our membership.”

Some soul searching required in both business and education legal circles.

Bishop versus harawira

I missed this part of last night’s debate at Auckland University. Newshub managed to get a headline out of their efforts.

Hone Harawira swears, threatens National MP during Auckland University election debate

Patrick Gower did quite a bit of swearing too, but that didn’t make their news.

At the Auckland University debate on Thursday night, Mr Harawira was defending his policy that immigrants should buy a newly-built house when moving to New Zealand.

Newshub political editor and debate MC Patrick Gower asked Mr Bishop what he thought.

“It’s the worst sort of politics to blame foreigners for our problems,” Mr Bishop said, when Mr Harawira interjected.

“Nobody over here is blaming foreigners,” he said.

Mr Bishop fired back, taking the debate on a different tangent: “Hone, you said before you worked hard. The last time you were an MP, you turned up to Parliament so little, we had to pass a special law to make sure you got fined for not turning up.”

He won cheers from the audience, before Mr Harawira raised his voice. “You don’t have the courage to get up and speak for yourself, and that’s why you’re in the National Party, because you let yourself be told what to do.”

Mr Harawira said an MP should fight for his people, “and if you won’t do it, get the hell out of Parliament!”

Does Harawira not understand that different MPs fight for different people? Bishop is credited with working hard in the Hutt South electorate and looks a good bet to win it off Trevor Mallard’s successor, having pushed Mallard close in 2014.

Bishop has also been successful getting a Members’ Bill through Parliament and this is also helping some people. See Chris Bishop delighted at record number of live kidney donors

Chris Bishop MP is delighted at the increase in live kidney donors reported, just months after his Member’s Bill, Financial Compensation for Live Organ Donors, passed into law.

The numbers reported by Organ Donation New Zealand on World Kidney Day show that the number of living kidney donors continues to increase, having a massive impact on the lives of patients and their families.

Back to the debate:

Mr Seymour chipped in to defend Mr Bishop: “That’s right, Bish does what he’s told – when he has to be in Parliament, he’s actually in Parliament.”

Mr Bishop then accused Mr Harawira of a taxpayer-funded trip to Paris.

Gower tried to bring order back to the fiery tit-for-tat, but Mr Harawira wasn’t having any of it.

“Paddy! If this is a housing question you should have f*cking slapped him down the minute he started making a personal attack. He’s turned it into a personal attack and if he wants to go down that track, let’s do it.”

But Mr Harawira then got back to the issue.

“This is not an attack on foreigners.”

As he talked, Mr Bishop continued to interject, until Mr Harawira threatened him.

“Sit down Chris Bishop, or you could end up in a place you don’t want to be.”

That’s a vague sort of threat, and Harawira isn’t the only one who swore during the debate, Gower had legitimised it through his own ‘colourful language’.

But I don’t think the prospects of Harawira working with a National government if both Harawira and national succeed in this year’s election.

Did any good come out of the debate? Most people will never know.

Debates have become another media tool to create news and headlines. As usual the worst little bits of the debate get the media coverage. Is it any wonder people are turned off voting?

 

“Ten biggest threats to nature in the city”

An Auckland University study, using experts from New Zealand, Australia and the UK, and has identified “the ten biggest future threats to nature in the city” .

Some of these so-called threats may be a surprise.

Top 10 threats to nature in the city

A new study, led by researchers in the University of Auckland’s School of Biological Sciences, brought together experts from Australia, the United Kingdom and New Zealand to identify current trends and new technologies that pose the biggest threat to urban ecosystems.

The list includes advances in technology aimed at lessening human impact on the environment.

“We don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater – some of these new technologies bring a range of environmental benefits,” lead author Dr Margaret Stanley says.

“But clever solutions are going to be needed to mitigate threats to urban biodiversity if we are to maintain our connection with nature as we become increasingly urbanised.”

There is growing evidence that the natural world is a benefit to human health and wellbeing, particularly if more and more of us are going to be living in cities in the future, the study authors say.

Top 10 Potential threats

  1. Health demands on greenspace: As more people are encouraged to use green urban spaces for exercise, these spaces can become highly maintained for people rather than wildlife; with more tracks, artificial lighting and fewer plants.
  2. Digital replacement of nature: There is a risk that nature in cities could be replaced with digital equivalents of nature, such as images and sound recordings. This gives people some of the benefits of nature, but without the maintenance and messy side of nature, however it could lead to city dwellers undervaluing nature in their immediate environment.
  3. Scattered cremains (material resulting from cremation): There has been a growing trend for cremation as space for burial of human remains is at a premium. However, in some cities land for interring cremains has become very expensive and scattering cremains has become more culturally acceptable. Because of high levels of phosphate and calcium in cremains, there is a risk of polluting urban ecosystems and waterways.
  4. Spread of disease by urban cats: Globally, there are now more than 600 million pet cats, and the increase in pet cat ownership is resulting in the disease toxoplasma spilling over into wildlife populations, in urban areas as well as to species in more remote locations, such as the endangered Hector’s dolphin.
  5. Switch to LED lights: Cities across the globe are switching their lighting technology to LED lights. However, the whiter spectrum of LED lights overlaps with the visual systems of wildlife and can disrupt their physiology and behaviour.
  6. Solar cities: Many cities are implementing city-wide solar panel installation programmes. However, solar panels can disrupt the behaviour and reproduction of animals that are attracted to the polarised light they produce.
  7. Nanotechnology: Nanoparticles (e.g. graphene) are now an increasing but invisible part of cities, found in everything from smartphones to clothing. However, there has been almost no research on the effects of these particles on animals, plants and entire ecosystems.
  8. Self-healing concrete: This is a new concrete product infused with specialised bacteria is about to be commercialised. If use of this product becomes widespread, it could spell the end for the often unique biodiversity that currently manages to thrive in cracked concrete all around cities.
  9. Energy efficient homes: Many countries are implementing large-scale retrofitting of buildings to make them more energy efficient. However, this effectively seals the building off from the outside, resulting in loss of breeding sites for wildlife such as bats and nesting birds.
  10. Drones: The recent popularity of using drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) in cities is likely to result in issues for wildlife, such as nesting birds, which are particularly sensitive to stress and repeated aerial disturbance.

The study is published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

 

Rodney Hide on dodgy survey

Rodney Hide’s Sunday column looked at a dodgy survey that suggested a “silent majority” of New Zealanders aren’t interested in rugby or the World Cup.

Rodney Hide: Silent majority? Yeah right

What a week! The All Blacks edging South Africa was stressful enough – then I discovered family and friends were faking it.

That was the finding of research by associate professor Toni Bruce.

A “silent majority” of us aren’t interested in rugby or the World Cup. I was beside myself that some of my friends and family must be unpatriotic and their passion faked.

The “vast majority” of the professor’s survey respondents declared the World Cup not personally important to them. They didn’t care. How could that be? In New Zealand?

But Hide looked into the poll.

I googled Toni Bruce.

I found out her research interests at Auckland University were “gender, race and ethnicity” and her work was “informed by feminism, interpretive interactionism and cultural studies theories”. Her research interests made me think she wasn’t keen on rugby.

Her press release this week, titled “Rugby World Cup a turnoff for many”, provided a link to her survey. I spent 20 minutes filling it out. That’s right. It’s there for anyone to complete.

So it could hardly be called a poll. There was no random selection. A small number of people chose to take part. As a form of research this is pretty much useless. It’s shocking it was reported on, but that’s what the herald did last Wednesday:

Rugby World Cup 2015: Silent majority turned off by All Blacks and rugby, survey claims

Sport sociologist Toni Bruce, an associate professor at the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Education and Social Work, is conducting a survey gauging Kiwi experiences and attitudes of the 2015 World Cup. Dr Bruce did similar surveys in 2007 and 2011.

She said this year’s results so far revealed a group she calls “the silent majority” – people who are uninterested in rugby and the Rugby World Cup.

Dr Bruce said 37 per cent of the survey respondents reported that winning the Rugby World Cup was personally important to them, whereas the vast majority said it was not.

There is no way she could determine her survey could identify a majority.

Hide continued:

Hang on. The survey was not of random people but rather those who knew of it and chose to do it.

And the most likely reason provided for undertaking it was that respondents received an email from the professor, sat in her class or bumped into her.

I guessed those into “gender, race and ethnicity, informed by feminism, interpretive interactionism and cultural studies theories” aren’t into rugby.

The survey was also reported by Stuff, as David Farrar posted at Kiwiblog – NZers and Rugby World Cup. He concluded in an update:

UPDATE: The survey is here, and is obviously a self-selecting survey. This means any quantitative data (ie more people are turned off rugby) is pretty useless, even though there can be useful qualitative data (why some people are turned off)

Toni Bruce’s profile at Auckland University:

Toni Bruce is Associate Professor in the School of Curriculum and Pedagogy.

Her research encompasses a range of qualitative and quantitative methodologies, including autoethnography and ethnographic fiction. Her research interests lie in the areas of gender, race and ethnicity, national identity and media theory and practice. This work is informed by feminism, interpretive interactionism and cultural studies theories.

Toni’s current research investigates onine public responses to media coverage of the 2014 and 2010 FIFA (men’s) football world cups, particularly debates over the place of football in New Zealand sporting culture.

Toni also conducted research around the 2011 Rugby World Cup, focusing on how people in New Zealand reacted to and experienced the event. She will continue this work in 2015.

So that needs updating.

She has taught at universities in the United States, Australia and New Zealand in the areas of qualitative methodologies, advanced research skills…

That’s a worry. She could do with learning some advanced research skills herself.

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