On Monday 16 November, we sent the following e-mail to Dr. David Duncan, Dr. Adrian Lee, the Vice-Chancellor, the President of the GSA, the President of UCU, and the editors of Nouse and York Vision.
We are writing to bring your attention to our open letter to Dr. David Duncan and Dr. Adrian Lee concerning the university’s intention to mark International Men’s Day, and our objections to this decision and the manner in which it was framed in the university’s press release. The original statement can be read here. At the time of writing, the open letter has just under 200 signatures from staff, students, and alumni of the University of York.
We were contacted directly by David Duncan over the weekend, before this open letter was published. His e-mail states ‘I am sorry that this has caused unhappiness for some members of the University community to felt that the statement was inappropriate and should never have been issued,’ and closes ‘We will certainly reflect on the views expressed in the open letter and I expect think twice about marking future Men’s Days. We will also consider whether it would be helpful to revise the statement in order to make its core purpose clearer, or perhaps to withdraw it altogether.’ We attach the full content of his response to this e-mail.
We notice – although we have not been contacted directly by the university – that the original press release has now been withdrawn, and David’s e-mail to us posted on the University website. Neither text, however, clarifies whether or not the university will reconsider marking International Men’s Day on Friday 19 November, or addresses our call a ‘full account of the means by which a decision to promote men’s issues in this way was reached by the Equality and Diversity Committee. Nor do they acknowledge the reputational damage caused to the University by associating itself in this way with radical ‘men’s rights activist’ groups, or apologise for the use of dubious scholarship in the claim that women are advantaged in hiring processes. We are pleased to hear that the University has withdrawn the statement, but await further updates on the issues raised above.
We also believe that the university should reflect on and take steps to rectify the reputational damage caused by its support for this controversial event.
We look forward to a further response.
Staff and students from the University of York
The updated statement can be read here.
David Duncan’s e-mail to us (sent on Sunday 15 November) is as follows:
I am writing in response to the open letter regarding the press release issued to mark International Men’s Day (19 November).
I am sorry that this has caused unhappiness for some members of the University community who felt that the statement was inappropriate and should never have been issued. 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.
The Equality and Diversity Committee is clear that the main focus of gender equality work should continue to be on the inequalities faced by women, and in particular the under-representation of women in the professoriate and senior management. We believe that we can make meaningful progress in addressing these issues, while at the same time addressing other aspects of the equality and diversity agenda. To this end, we are putting in place new structures to extend and strengthen our approach to the Athena Swan awards, which provide a framework for our work on gender equality.
We will certainly reflect on the views expressed in the open letter and I expect think twice about marking future Men’s Days. We will also consider whether it would be helpful to revise the statement in order to make its core purpose clearer, or perhaps to withdraw it altogether.
With best wishes.
Chair, Equality and Diversity Committee