Free Speech Club protests AMS rejection of men's rights club

The UBC Free Speech Club set up a booth in front of the Nest today to protest what they feel was an unfair rejection of a men's rights club aligned with the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFÉ).

According to a letter from Student Administrative Commission Vice-Chair Rob Willoughby, the would-be club was rejected due to an overlapping mandate with the Sexual Assault Support Centre's (SASC) Healthier Masculinities Program, whose guiding principles include:

  • Working from an anti-oppressive and intersectional lens
  • Acknowledging privilege and positionality
  • Promot[ing] open, safer spaces to discuss and express various forms of masculinity

CAFÉ's stated purposes are not concerned with feminism and intersectionality, but rather focus on advocacy for men and “chang[ing] public policy,” through “positive activism to advance a healthier society.”

AMS VP Admin Chris Scott said that the decision to reject the men's rights club was a result of administrative strain on the student union. Management feels that with the pressure of 400 clubs competing for space and attention, there is little room for new clubs with even a slight overlap with existing ones.

“We're kind of at our maximum of clubs that we can support. We're strictly enforcing that there has to be very little overlap to accept new clubs. That was a plan across the board in the fall when we went through those applications,” he said.

Since June 30, the AMS has accepted 20 new clubs, and 16 Recognized Student Organizations (basically, clubs without office space provided by the union), and have denied 33 applications.

The Free Speech Club maintains that the two are different enough to warrant separate clubs.

“I think it's completely bullshit,” said club president Louis Jung. “If you look at the mandates we have here, they're completely different. I think [they were rejected] because CAFÉ isn't a feminist masculinity club, so I think they're just trying to shut it down,” he said.

The scene at the protest this morning.
The scene at the protest this morning.

“We sent them the link for volunteering with healthier masculinities ... and I'm guessing they didn't take that,” said Scott. “We really want to help them get involved in advocating for what they want.”

Phillip Johnston, branch director of CAFÉ Vancouver, believes the campus is in need of a men's advocacy club separate from the SASC.

“It's great that there are programs like the Healthier Masculinities program. I think there's some great work being done relating to men's health here on campus. However, I think there's a number of issues that those programs don't cover,” he said. “Things like the effects of fatherlessness and ... legal biases in the law courts that end up separating men from their children.”

“It seems fairly clear to me that the Healthier Masculinities program comes more from an ideological basis,” he said, whereas CAFÉ's is “evidence-based.”

“I don't reject [patriarchy] theory ... it's good to have discussions about different ideas on campus. I would just like to see a club on campus that presents another theory so that people get exposed to another way of looking at gender.”

After the protest, the male symbol on which the Free Speech Club collected thank-you notes to influential men in the lives of passersby was seen on top of the engineering cairn. The move sparked backlash on social media due to the upcoming anniversary of the 1989 massacre at École Polytechnique on December 6. The Engineering Undergraduate Society and Women in Engineering UBC are hosting a memorial ceremony for the massacre tomorrow.

This article has been updated to include statistics regarding how many clubs the AMS has accepted this school year.