The Massey free speech timeline

I have now gone through and read in full the several hundred pages of e-mails to and from the VC and key staff, and have put them into a timeline below. This will clearly demonstrate how determined she was to cancel the event, and how the decision to cancel was made within a couple of hours of the open letter being published on Facebook. There are no references at all in the e-mails to and from the VC about actual threats or guns. This was used as justification later.

While the Politics Club had approached Massey operations staff a couple of days prior asking for security assistance, there is no evidence in these e-mails that this info was even known by the VC when she made the decision.

The VC defended her decision to Massey staff by citing the fear of gun violence. But again the comment about bring a gun on a Facebook post doesn’t appear in any of the e-mails to or from her before the cancellation (and it definitely would have if known). It may not even have been made at that time. It was a convenient excuse later.

Anyway look through the timeline yourself and see how it was the VC personally driving the mission to find a way to ban Brash and her staff who kept arguing that she shouldn’t do it.

The decision to cancel was made just 30 minutes after a staffer discovered they could use security as a reason to cancel. After weeks of trying to find a way within their policies to cancel it, she now had it.

Date Time Summary of e-mail Comments
       
13 May 0745 Staffer sends VC media op ed which suggests former lecturer Don Esslemont consider a one way ticket back to his country of origin as he doesn’t like mihis Esslemont is the person who left a room while a mihi was performed.
20 May 1110 Staffer e-mails VC lamenting outcome of Maori ward vote and saying Massey complicit in result by allowing voices of opponents to diminish value of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Says a TTOW university is not a place for anti-Maori senitments which may persuade the hearts and minds of students This is what really started it all. The staffer argues allowing a debate on an issue makes them complicit in the vote outcome!
  1301 VC replies saying in past she has stopped presentations by Christian preachers which degrade women or gays. Says she is unsure what she prefers as a headline – university backs freedom of speech of racists or university backs own values. Says MUSA is not the university but as they fund them can  build into expectations they respect our values. Wants facilities hire to be restricted to those who do not compromise our values. Saddened by referendum result. Clear that VC prefers headlines of university backs own values over freedom of speech. First time of many she raises issue of using funding to force compliance.
  1133 (time stamps inconsis-tent Staffer replies saying they struggle with why students would host a forum that frames Maori representation as an issue to be debated Interesting worldview that the issue of Maori seats is seen by a staffer as beyond debate.
9 July 1037 Massey Manawatu Politics Club invites VC to events with Don Brash, Simon Bridges and Chris Bishop describing the events as a “one to one chat with the politicians to learn of their lives in the environment of politics, experiences and future aspirations” If MMPC hadn’t invited her to attend, ironically she may have never known about it and not spent days demanding people find a way to stop it.
  1605 Staffer e-mails VC to say she is not free on any of the dates of the events  
  1659 VC replies saying Don Brash is very racist re Maori and what restrictions do we have in this regard as using university facilities gives tactic (sic) endorsement. Asks what can we do to manage and minimise as don’t want repeat of the horrible incident a few months ago Note the VC responds within an hour of the e-mail saying she wants Brash stopped and what can they do to stop it
10 July 1918 VC asks for update on options re not allowing the Brash event on campus.  Asks if Brash can be made to agree to “respect the values of the university” Respect the values of the university is clearly code for not have a different view on the Treaty of Waitangi
  2019 Staffer responds saying we should welcome a diversity of views and will have a much bigger problem if we prevented this from occurring. Says we may be seen as supressing and would have a huge backlash from student body and possibly the community Almost all the staff she consulted pushed back against the VC stopping the event. It was the VC personally who kept asking for options.
11 July 2040 Another staffer says there are no criteria in the policy to decline the event  and saying no could be challenged. Would be a real risk of being accused of restricting free speech  
  1904 VC responds saying to first staffer saying Brash is not a sitting politician so must only have been invited because of his controversial views on Maori. Says she has used hate speech as a reason to ban speakers with obscene views on women and gays previously. Suggest the forum be required to have a trigger warning notice.  Asks for mechanisms to pressure the club such as the financial agreements with clubs and societies and MUSA. VC regards having a different view on the status of the Treaty as being akin to hate speech. Again seeks to use financial pressure against MUSA and clubs.
  1957 Staffer e-mails VC saying it is clear Don Brash uses free speech as a shield as do many colonial racists and conservative commentators The staffer seems to view conservative commentators as a form of pond scum
  0834 VC e-mails an op ed by Moana Jackson saying free speech can’t be used to make another feel less free and free speech has been used as a terrorising instrument against Maori Moana Jackson’s free speech makes me feel less free. Does that mean by his logic he should not have free speech
13 July 1912 VC still fretting over club invite to Don Brash. Says she is still unclear over conditions of club funding and whether this can be used as a mechanism. Says the invite will seriously affect our Maori colleagues and put doubt on our te Tiriti led ambition. Wants to find way to indicate Brash not welcome unless he abides by our values. Why is he invited as not a sitting politician.  Ask for check on student association funding. Says should explore free speech only allowed on campus if it does not cause harm to others. Strong preference is to stop the event on campus. If impossible wants trigger warnings and publish an op ed on freedom of speech. Also wants facilities policy modified to allow blocking in future. Once again the VC initiates a call for action. This is not something the staff brought to her. She is the one constantly wanting a solution. Explicitly says she wants the event stopped and policies changed to prevent it in future.
  2323 Provost e-mails VC saying they risk criticism either way. Says hate speech is an abomination and a “rape of human dignity”. Says though they should not use coercive measures but instead do an op ed on hate speech. She also says “it would be pushing it to argue all three speakers were not welcome as the others are politicians So the op ed was not a coincidence. It was designed to fire a warning shot against Brash. Also of interest is there was talk of banning Bridges and Bishop also.
14 July 1746 VC likes the idea of an op ed. Asks Provost to draft. Says though they still have a couple of trails of evidence and need to speak to politics club and then refuse entry if club doesn’t oblige VC specifically talks of refusing entry.
  1826 VC says she has spoken to her ACU (probably Assn of Commonwealth Universities) VC colleagues and none of them would allow Brash on campus. Says several have laws against hate speech and asks if NZ does I wonder if any NZ VCs were included in that?
  2024 Staffer replies says it appears NZ has no hate speech law citing a 2016 law society article  
15 July 0830 Staffer says they are looking at conditions and codes for clubs and societies to see what opportunities they present  
16 July 0659 Provost says not sure if we are saying Goff was right or wrong to ban Canadian speakers  
  1102 VC says we should say Goff was right  
  1116 VC says op ed will “give us a platform to hook into as we work with the politics club  
18 July 1043 VC says she will send op ed to Council  
19 July 1140 VC says she is getting positive and very negative (and personal) feedback on her op ed in response to being sent Kiwiblog post criticising it Nice I get read!
20 July 1741 Maori TV invite VC to debate Don Brash on freedom of speech  
22 July 1935 VC says op ed was step one in task of considering what can and can’t occur on campus. Says there is an online campaign “Don’t choose Massey if you want to have free speech” That campaign now has steroids thanks to the VC
23 July 1151 VC says no to debate as doesn’t want to be poster child for the anti-Don Brash movement away from the university environment  
23 July 1429 Maori TV offer solo interview without Don Brash.  
  1840 VC says happy to do it  
27 July 0646 Staffer says MPSS now affiliated and bookings are subject to using it in accordance with MU strategy including being a Tiriti o Waitangi led organisation. The new booking policy is designed to give them the right to cancel events in the future where a speaker may say something they don’t like
  0948 VC asks to make sure MPSS tells speakers about their obligations to recognise the values of Massey being a Tiriti o Waitangi led organisation. Wants to sit in on Brash event if possible, but says not to let MPSS know she will be there The VC wanted to spy on the event! And explicitly wants guest speakers to comply with Massey’s views on what the Treaty means
  1051 VC e-mails saying we have had MUSA speak with politics society to remind them of responsibilities. MPPS now affiliated to MUSA and must operate under their rules. Says bookings are subject to using it in accordance with MU strategy including being a Tiriti o Waitangi led organisation. These agreements to be mandatory in future. Says getting them to sign will “have some fall out but less than if I outright banned them from usage”. So not stopping this time but if they breach “rules” we can ban the Simon Bridges event from campus. Note VC refers to banning the Simon Bridges event if Don Brash says anything she doesn’t like
6 Aug 1237 Karl Pearce e-mails VC about Brash event saying he is sure she will be concerned about further press regarding Hobson’s Choice and what steps will she take to ensure safety of those attending  as free speech does not come free of consequences. Issue died down until this e-mail gave them the pretext to cancel.
  1245 VC asks if MPSS has signed the new form  
  1348 VC drafts response saying she expects MPSS to manage venue in accordance with recognising the values of Massey being a Tiriti o Waitangi led organisation So even at 1.48 pm there was no move to cancel.
  1353 Staffer complains that MUSA invited Brash and they have to be responsible for making people safe  
  1436 Staffer tells VC the e-mail is now an open letter on Facebook This is what basically led to the cancellation. The e-mail became an open letter. This is the so called security threat
  1517 VC asks if they should provide added security in light of open letter Even then the VC wasn’t looking to cancel as was unware they could.
  1527 Staffer says VC called them re e-mail. Says we should protect free speech, even controversial speech, so long as not threatening or encouraging violence. Would support debate rather than prohibiting speakers Should have listened to the staffer
  1532 Another staffer says they have grounds to “ban him” as terms of booking require the client to satisfy Massey that its use would not adversely affect operations, security or reputation of Massey, staff etc This is the loophole they found. They could claim a security issue.
  1533 Another staffer says given noise might be prudent to cancel the booking  
  1610 Staffer says working with VC on a response and actively engaging with MPSS who had already approached them with concerns around security  
  1618 Statement drafted to announce cancellation So the decision to cancel was made less than two hours after the e-mail became an open letter. The moment a loophole for cancelling was found, it was seized on.
  1630 Discussion to have the statement come from another staffer so it doesn’t appear to have been escalated to the VC Considering covering up it was the VC’s decision
  1631 VC agrees not under her name Presumably this was changed later
  1907 VC says happy to front media as Brash will and they want to get the jump  
  1909 VC says she wishes she had stopped the event at the beginning She should have wished she never tried to stop it at all.
    Statement announcing cancellation made that evening  
7 Aug 1101 VC says she had never heard of Hobson’s Pledge before and now wishes she never had. Asks if Universities NZ has a position  
  1624 VC advised that media has asked the head librarian if they had Mein Kamph and Lolita in the library and that they confirmed they had both Hitler’s writings are fine, Don Brash isn’t
8 Aug 1340 Reports that 39 alumni have asked to be removed from database over this issue and others have said won’t donate in future. Will be even more now.
  1459 Staffer drafts an e-mail for VC to staff saying she knows full well many of them categorically oppose the outcome. Refers to terrible consequences of gun violence on campuses. Must have been considerable internal feedback. The reference to gun violence is a red herring as none of the e-mails indicate there was any knowledge of that comment on Facebook being known by the VC when she made the decision. It is being used as justification after the event.
  1723 Deputy Pro VC Chris Gallavan tells VC of his planned op ed saying he disagrees. Good on him.

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