Statement about upcoming public event to be held at SFU

Dear SFU Community,

It has been brought to our attention that on November 2, 2019, an event entitled “How Media Bias Shapes the Gender Identity Debate” is being held at SFU Harbour Centre, sponsored by Professor Mark Collard.

The Graduate Student Society (GSS) at SFU is deeply disappointed that this university, an institution that prides itself on its inclusive and supportive nature, is allowing the event to proceed, given it hosts known transphobic speakers who mask themselves under the veil of free speech and feminism to justify discrimination.

On October 8, 2019 the GSS Council passed a motion condemning the event in the strongest possible terms and demanding that it not be permitted to take place under the University’s Use of Space Policy, which cites reputation and safety as factors in determining the use of space beyond their commitment to free speech and academic freedom. The SFU Use of Space Policy states:

The University has the right to manage the use of, and access to, its interior and exterior space. The University recognizes and respects the core values of academic freedom and freedom of expression. To ensure that the University’s activities, the safety and security of persons and facilities, and the University’s reputation are not compromised, however, conditions and/or limitations may be imposed on the use of University space.

The academic freedom and freedom of expression justification by the SFU decision makers is inadequate considering the policy above allows SFU to cancel the booking based on reputation, safety and security considerations.

We ask that SFU publicly explain why they believe this event does not compromise the University’s reputation. We believe it is compromised considering that, in addition to the GSS, opposition to the event has been expressed by the Simon Fraser Student Society, Out On Campus, the Women’s Centre, the Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies, faculty members, students and most importantly, trans and non-binary individuals. This is not to mention a variety of community groups and individuals off campus.

Further, we request that SFU also explain why they believe the safety and security, particularly of trans-identified members of the SFU community (staff, students and faculty), is not compromised. Knowing that trans and non-binary people are some of the most marginalized people in society and suffer disproportionate levels of violence, these vulnerable populations are precisely the people the policy should be used to protect.

We are certain there are events that the University would not allow to proceed under the Use of Space Policy and are concerned that allowing this event to proceed suggests that only groups with enough political, economic or social capital may be protected by the policy.

The GSS would like to express our solidarity and support for trans and non-binary people at SFU and beyond who have had to deal with multiple transgressions against them in recent years. GSS is committed to providing space that supports free expression while also being hate-free and accessible to all students.

GSS Executive Committee