Ryerson has granted space for controversial men’s rights activists and the Canadian Association for Equality to co-host an event on campus tomorrow after completing a risk assessment. However, the university changed the event location and will charge a security fee.
The event, which was originally going to be held at the Mattamy Athletic Centre, has been moved to a room in the Chang School to better manage safety concerns. According to Ryerson’s Office of Student Community Life, the original space was booked by a Ryerson student on behalf of CAFE and was therefore required to complete the risk assessment with Ryerson’s Integrated Risk Management Team. According to CAFE’s Facebook page, they are required to pay a $1,600 security fee to Ryerson.
“The purpose of assessment is not to stop events – it is to help organizers hold the event in a safer manner,” said Michael Forbes, a spokesman for Ryerson.
Early last month, CAFE began advertising that they would be hosting an event on campus to discuss “feminism, free speech and the censorship of men’s issues.” The main speaker will be contributing editor of A Voice for Men, Karen Straughan, also known on YouTube as GirlWritesWhat.
The event will act as the launch of a Ryerson-based men’s issues awareness society, which was denied recognition as an official Ryerson student group by the Ryerson Students’ Union last year.
“While Ryerson may not support or agree with the positions held by a particular organization or group, the university fully supports an environment that encourages the freedom of expression and the exchange of ideas,” said Denise O’Neil Green, the assistant vice president and vice provost equity, diversity and inclusion.
However, CAFE board member Iain Dwyer said he wants the Ryerson community to judge the association’s programs for itself.
“CAFE is assisting members of the Ryerson community who are committed to finding a way [for a men’s issues group] to be active on campus. We intend to revisit the RSU decision with the new executive,” Dwyer said.
The university’s assessment asked a number of questions that would indicate if there are risks associated with an event, including whether or not similar events been held in the past lead to challenges or if the speaker or topic is controversial and may lead to protesters attending the event.
In the fall 2012, CAFE visited the University of Toronto, with an event featuring activist Warren Farrell’s lecture outlining his theory of how males are disadvantaged in western society. At the event, a police officer, attendees and several protesters were assaulted.
Because of the protest at the U of T event, program co-ordinators have categorized Straughan’s speech as high risk.
“The safety of our community is one of the top priorities at Ryerson. That’s why we review all events booked at Ryerson,” Green said. “We expect our community members and their guests to present their views – no matter how divergent – in a respectful manner.”
CAFE announced on its website that hosting at least eight major events at university and college campuses across Canada was its New Year’s resolution for 2014.
This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on February 5, 2014.