I teach at Victoria University, in the heart of Footscray. Footscray is an extremely vibrant and bustling suburb with an incredible population diversity, which is also reflected in VU’s student and staff population. This diversity is a real asset to our university and I feel privileged to be able to teach in such a unique environment.
My colleagues at VU and I were incensed when we heard that the far-right, islamophobic Q Society was secretly holding a fundraising dinner at our university. We initiated a sign-on protest letter calling on the university to publically apologise and donate the proceeds of the venue to a VU Muslim student/staff or related organisation.
Providing a platform for hate speech contravenes the university’s values, the Safer Community strategy, designed to foster inclusiveness and safety, and VU’s use of facilities policy.
The response from staff, students and the broader community to the protest letter was swift. The university responded to the public outcry and our protest letter with an apology and is in the process of working out how to donate the revenue.
Kudos should also go to the protesters who confronted the bus transporting attendees to the VU dinner site.
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To Vice Chancellor Peter Dawkins and the Victoria University Council
It is with alarm and disappointment that we protest Victoria University’s decision to provide a platform to the far right anti Islam organisation Q Society.
On Friday February 10, the Q Society, hosted a fundraising dinner at Victoria University‘s city convention centre in Melbourne. The event, deceptively titled “defend freedom of speech”, was to raise funds for legal fees related to a defamation law suit by Mohamed El-Mouelhy, a Halal certifier. The Q Society is well known for associating Islam with terrorism and lobbying parliament to ban Halal certification.
In 2014 the Q Society toured far-right Dutch MP Geert Wilders, who advocates a total ban on Muslim migration. At the Q Society fundraising dinner held in Sydney on Thursday night, Larry Pickering, cartoonist and VIP guest said "Let's be honest, I can't stand Muslims.” Cory Bernardi, former Liberal Party senator, was a key note speaker at Friday night’s event in Melbourne . Bernardi has been a vocal opponent of Islam, opposes reproductive freedom for women and has linked same sex marriage to bestiality.
Victoria University has a very diverse student and staff population whose human rights and freedom to go about their daily lives are threatened by the repressive and reprehensible ideas of the Q Society.
Providing a venue for the Q Society contradicts the university’s vision of being “open and excellent, creating exceptional value for any student from any background and uplifting the communities in which we operate.”
It also threatens Victoria University’s Safer Community strategy which is designed to foster an inclusive and safe environment for staff, students and the broader community.
Hosting the Q Society contravenes the university’s policy that clearly states that facilities will NOT be made available for:
- Unlawful activities or activities that may be a breach of University policies.
- Activities that are in conflict with or deemed incompatible with the University's values or strategic direction.
We demand the university issue an apology and donate any money received from the Q Society or any affiliated institution to the Islamic Society of Victoria University or other related student and/or staff bodies.
Yours in protest: