University of York cancels International Men’s Day celebrations after controversy regarding a statement from a member of the equalities board
The University of York has cancelled plans to celebrate International Men’s Day (IMD) after protests from staff, students and alumni. They came after controversial comments made by Dr. Adrian Lee, a member of the equality and diversity committee at the university.
Dr. Lee, speaking in favour of celebrating the event, founded in 1992, said, “in academic staff appointments, the data suggests that female candidates have a higher chance of being appointed than men.” He went on to say “in academic departments, the support staff complement is often heavily weighted towards women, with some departments employing no men at all.”
This was not well received, and prompted students and staff to pen an open letter to Dr. David Duncan—registrar and secretary of the university, as well as chair of the equality and diversity committee. The letter gathered almost 200 signatures and called for a “full account” of the means by which a decision to promote men’s issues “in this way” was reached by the committee. The letter went on to criticise the university for associating itself with “radical” ‘men’s rights activist’ groups.
The decision to mark IMD was also widely criticised on social media. Jennifer Saul, from the philosophy department of the University of Sheffield, wrote on the Feminist Philosophers blog that IMD was “very counterproductive.” She went on to say “by all means, let’s talk about the ways that patriarchy harms everyone. We need to overturn the stranglehold of gender roles on men in order to achieve gender justice.”
Dr. Duncan released a statement in response to the letter, announcing that the university would no longer be marking the occasion. It reasoned that “the intention was to draw attention to some of the issues men tell us they encounter and to follow this up by highlighting in particular the availability of mental health and welfare support which we know men are sometimes reluctant to access.”
International Men’s Day aims to “provide a focus on men’s and boy’s health, improve gender relations, promote gender equality, and highlight positive male role models.” It took place on Thursday the 19th of November 2015.