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13 July 2017

University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) President, Yan Zhuang, has challenged the accuracy of The Australian’s reporting of the ‘How Privilege Manifests in Tutorials’ workshops that UMSU ran as part of the University of Melbourne’s Diversity Week.

The article, ‘Uni holds workshops on ‘male privilege’’, claimed UMSU had used the workshop to develop a report arguing that “Men should…acknowledge that being born male and white affords them certain privileges” and that “recommendations were given to staff at the University” by UMSU.

According to Zhuang, despite what has been published in The Australian, no male students have been instructed to modify their behaviour on campus and University staff have not received recommendations as a result of these workshops.

“The document that The Australian refers to regarding this report is an Office Bearer report that had been submitted to Students’ Council: a regular accountability measure that we have in place for all Office Bearers,” she said.

“The Office Bearer report was the notes taken from that meeting rather than any kind of recommendation; it was a reflection of what students were saying rather than a reflection of the Union’s position.”

According to the Office Bearers’ report, the workshops were “student-led” and examined “the ways in which privilege and unconscious bias permeate tutorials and seminars”.

The article that appeared in The Australian quoted views that were expressed in the workshop and recorded in the Officer Bearer report; “men should … not speak with absolute confidence when they are in fact not sure or expressing an opinion”.

The Australian cited criticisms of “extreme political correctness” and fostering a “snowflake culture” leveled by think tanks.

“By asking men to tone down and speak like women, [UMSU] is simultaneously discriminating against men and patronising women,” Dr d’Abrera, from the Institute of Public Affairs, said.

Similarly, Jeremy Sammut from the Centre for Independent Research stated “[Students are] being told to not only watch what they say but how they say it…If these students can’t handle the exchange of differing views, how will they ever go on to become a CEO or the Prime Minister of the country?”

Sinead Manning, UMSU Education (Public) Officer, established the workshops in conjunction with People of Colour Officers, Ella Shi and Hannan Al Daqqa.

Manning said that more workshops could come. “Ideally, we’d like to run more. I think it was actually a really valuable experience for everybody who participated.”