Free Speech Coalition here to stay

Damn !

I was busy enough as it was. I have a 20 month old boy to co-parent. I have a polling company to run. A (taxpayers) union to govern. A blog which needs five to ten articles a day plus I am already involved in three campaigns on topical issues. More than enough.

So when the Coalition was formed around Phil Goff’s stupidity, I didn’t join. Hell, I didn’t even donate. I blogged a couple of articles in support, but was really happy to leave this fight to others.

But having the Massey Vice-Chancellor ban a former leader of the National Party (and one of my former employers) from speaking on campus has shown this issue is too important to leave to others. So I have joined the , and urge others to do the same.

The FSC has announced:

The Free Speech Coalition has resolved that, contingent on raising sufficient funds, it will be issuing legal proceedings against the Vice-Chancellor of Massey University. …

“At the same time, we continue to engage Auckland Council in the High Court for their capitulation to the thugs. We face significant legal costs, but are advised that the marginal cost of bringing Massey into our case will be lower than for someone launching independent action.”

Dr David Cumin, another member of the Free Speech Coalition, says, With Massey University refusing to back down on barring from speaking on campus, it is clear that free speech issues are not going away. Many supporters of the cause have contacted us to urge the Free Speech Coalition to become permanent. We have now resolved to incorporate as a permanent group.

The FSC is keen to get support (and money) from people on all sides of the political spectrum. Free speech advocacy should belong to everyone.

“New Zealanders are welcome to join and donate to the coalition at https://freespeech.nationbuilder.com/join.”

Go and join up.

I support the legal action as it should result in a good precedent. But I think we need more than this. I plan to propose to the Free Speech Coalition (they may agree or disagree) that the FSC launches a Boycott Massey Campaign.

We’ve already seen online (unscientific) surveys showing 85% of people say this decision makes them less likely to want to study at Massey.

It is only by making the University Council realise the damage the decision has done to them, that they might step in and reverse the ban and arrange an apology. I don’t want the VC sacked. I just want the ban gone and an apology to Dr Brash.

So how would a Boycott Massey Campaign work. Here’s what I plan to propose:

  1. Have a dedicated website for it where people can sign up in support and download material for distribution. Allow them to leave public comments on why they are supporting the boycott. Have registered boycottmassey.ac.nz as a potential address.
  2. Have a Boycott Massey graphic that people can download and use on their social media profiles to show how much support there is.
  3. Target secondary school students by urging them not to study at Massey as the institution doesn’t believe in allowing them to hear diverse views. Ask students to share the boycott material on social media using their school groups etc. Have a brochure that secondary school students can download and distribute to their friends. On the website list every major degree at Massey, and what other universities offer that degree (with links to them).
  4. Target their donors. The Massey University Foundation has members such as Tony Ryall and John Luxton. See if they will suspend involvement until the ban is lifted as surely they can’t in good conscience fundraise for a university that bans one of their former leaders. Contact the major donors listed at https://foundation.massey.ac.nz/file/annual-reviews/Annual-Review-2016.pdf and ask them to refuse to give further until the ban is lifted.
  5. Target the rating agencies. Write to QS World Uni Rankings, Top Universities and the Times Higher Education Rankings and inform them of what Massey has done. You might expect a former opposition leader to be banned from speaking in some authoritarian country in the third world, not in New Zealand.
  6. Target guest speakers. Ask people not to speak at Massey until everyone is free to speak at Massey. I’ve already had one guest lecturer cc me his e-mail declining to guest lecture this year.
  7. Enlist Massey students. MUSA have to their credit opposed the ban. Urge them to advocate to the University Council that a refusal to back down and apologise will damage their prospects as it devalues a Massey degree.
  8. Target graduates. Some have already offered to return their degrees. Have a section on the website where Massey graduates say they no longer recommend going to Massey and how the VC’s decision has undermined their Massey degree.

I’d rather not have to spend scores of hours working on a boycott campaign. But this action sets too horrible a precedent. It would be unacceptable for anyone to be banned from speaking (if invited, as Brash had been) but to ban a former opposition leader whom almost 900,000 people voted for is an attack on free speech that is probably unprecedented for a university in the developed world.

Some things are worth fighting for, and this is one of them.

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