CSU Institutional Support for Marriage Equality

As is plain from the debate in the media, the issue of Marriage Equality has been a difficult one for us as a nation. Clearly there are many people in favour of Marriage Equality. I recognise that there are also many of those within our community who are opposed. There are a further category of people who feel uncomfortable about this issue because even if they are personally supportive or undecided, they are concerned about others being forced to deal with the question.

Speaking personally, the decision to support Marriage Equality is straightforward for me. I know many same-sex couples in long-term relationships, some of whom are parents. Personally, I cannot see how it can be right to deny them the opportunity to have their commitment to each other legally recognised by society. I have already ticked ‘yes’ on the ABS survey form.

But that is my personal decision. Unlike most people, as the Vice-Chancellor of this institution, I have additional responsibilities on behalf of the whole University community. In an organisation of nearly 5000 staff and 40,000 students, this is a more complicated decision to make while being respectful of the different positions I outlined above.

I have had representations from staff members individually, from the ALLY program members and from the Online Student Representative Council all of whom have asked me to pledge institutional support.

I have sought the advice of a number of people including my Leadership Team and the Chancellor. From this advice it is evident that ultimately, as with the broader society, there is not a unanimous and perhaps not even a consensus view on this. There are a good number of people who think the University should not take a position except to encourage people to participate in the national vote.

However, from my discussions and the representations that have been made to me, I do not believe we can sit on the fence. This would be celebrated by some and seen as an abdication of responsibility by others so it is not a neutral choice. Given the lack of clear consensus, it is also clear to me that this is a decision that ultimately I have to, and must, make myself in my role as Vice-Chancellor of the organisation.

I do not want to stifle debate. As a University, we should be a space in which difficult issues can be discussed. That is the academic mission of the University and I fully support that and the right of people to exercise free speech within it. As Vice-Chancellor I cannot tell anyone in the University what to think.

However, the University also exists as a corporate body, as an employer of staff and a community of students, and it is in that light that I consider the question of the institutional position. When I consider our key Value of ‘Inclusive’, I believe the right decision is that we should support Marriage Equality before the law and that is the decision I have taken.

As patron of CSU’s ALLY program, a program dedicated to supporting and empowering the LGBTQI+ community, I stand by the LBGTQI+ community and I cannot see how to do that without supporting Marriage Equality before the law.

To the numerous staff who have emailed me personally asking for organisational support, to the Online Student Representative Committee who called for me to make a stand on this issue, and to RivColl, the Riverina Student Representative Committee and your leadership who have taken a stand, the University stands with you in supporting the right of all to have equality before the law.

I have no doubt this decision will be met with criticism by some individuals, and I accept this. I can only do what I think is right and I know that I would regret it later if I do not do that. I also accept and celebrate everyone’s democratic right to take a position in the Marriage Equality debate and I encourage all of you who are entitled to vote to do so in line with your own views and conscience.

Given our Value of Inclusive, CSU is stronger together and we will accept and support all members of the CSU community and recognise their equality before the law. I trust that whatever the outcome of the vote and whatever process follows, we will retain respect for and continue to support each other.

Thank you for taking the time to engage in this important debate in Australia’s history.

Regards,

Andy

Support is available: If you need support or feel distressed during the same-sex marriage debate, please contact a Student Counsellor, the Employee Assistance Program or an ALLY trained representative on your Campus.

Professor Andrew Vann

Vice-Chancellor
Charles Sturt University

 

23 thoughts

  1. I’m a firm supporter of marriage equality but am I the only one to feel that this is completely inappropriate? What has happened to democracy when institutions “as an employer of staff” feel the need to weigh in and forward their personal opinions as the corporate voice? As a yes voter, perhaps I should be happy but what if the university had announced they were not in favour of same sex marriage? Would I not feel ostracized, that my university did not support or understand my beliefs and that perhaps I should be looking to study elsewhere? A university should be the last place where people should feel they have no voice or feel pressure to conform to other’s beliefs. This statement was unnecessary, divisive and disappointing.

      1. It is easy to say I respect your opinion but much harder to reply to a legitimate question particularly if you don’t have any answer.

      2. Professor Vann, you “respect” Emma’s opinion, but you don’t value it. If you respected the opinions of others you would not use your position to put your unequal weight behind one side of the argument. It’s a sad reflection on the decline of the university that the Vice-Chancellor believes he should enter into political and social debates using his platform as the senior administrator.

        Your arguments are no better or worse than anyone else’s argument for a “Yes” vote. I would have much more respect for you if you’d kept them to your private networks rather than bruit them abroad to all and sundry. I’m sorry, but that’s not “leadership”, it’s mere canvassing and virtue signalling.

      3. Well said Emma. I have no problem individuals having an opinion but why the need for corporates to be involved? The corporations should keep out of this debate and leave to individuals. PC rubbish!

  2. Good on you CSU for showing witness to your moto ‘For the public good’. Unis have a long history of pushing the frontiers and this is no exception. Well done.

    1. Sadly, the frontiers were not pushed on issues which literally affected the lives and livelihood of hundreds of thousands of people in this country and around the world. The frontiers are only pushed for elitist view points relevant to very small numbers of people to promote their lifestyle choices.

      Where was the moral outrage when refugees were being demonised? The refugees do not make a lifestyle choice; they flee for their lives and they seek better life for themselves and
      their families and they take great risks along the way.
      Where was the outrage when penalty rates were being cut which affects thousands of low paid workers – many of them students?

      Where is the outrage when the environment is being raped continually? Do we see the Vice Chancellor or the University take a clear position on this?

      Where is the moral outrage when our dollars, our armed forces and our military are being used to perpetuate the occupation of other lands to fit into the global agenda of a super power?

      The Universities should never become the tool for spruiking elitist views on lifestyle choices.

      I know many homosexuals and have heard their stories about how they transitioned into this life style. One things I learnt is that marriage is the last thing on their mind. Even among many heterosexuals these days marriage is of lesser importance than it used to be. So why the sudden sympathy for these supposed rights? The answer is – it is not about rights. It is about breaking a system, a tradition to fit into some people’s view of how a society should be. It is not the homosexual people who are driving it. It is the elites on the fringes.

      1. Khair, it’s difficult to rationally argue with such an unbalanced view of reality. To even suggest that sexual preference is a “lifestyle choice” underlines your ignorance of the issue at the most fundamental level.

      2. I know Phil, it is hard to argue “rationally” as you put it – and that is because you prefer to be emotive rather than rational. By its very definition “sexual preference” is a lifestyle choice, and it is a point of view held by many but to you it is “to even suggest”, so how can you have a rational debate?

  3. Thank you for making this statement, showing leadership and taking a stand. This is what our politicians should have done in the first place. Well done.

  4. With respect I have to say – much of what the VC has said above is hypocritical and disingenuous, starting from framing the issue as “marriage equality”. Equality exists only in the domain of mathematics. The term is used by apologists of feeble propositions to promote their narrow ideological agenda when they don’t have much to put forward in terms of logic and potent argument, so they resort to emotive terms such as “equality”. Otherwise it simply does not exist, nor is it even sought – least of all by the very people in whose interest these people supposedly lend their voices. What is expected though is justice and fairness. On those counts you will not hear the voices of such people who try to make so much pretense of working for “equality”. You won’t hear much if at all from them when human beings cause suffering of other human beings in the name of democracy, border protection, freedom, security, religion, secularism, etc. You won’t hear much from them when our environment is gang raped through the decades of irresponsible mismanagement. You won’t hear from them when the rights of the working people are trampled upon and legislation promulgated to assuage the big end of town. You will hear from them only on fringe issues which may not even make it to the 20th order of priority for the nation in terms of its relevance to the number of people in the country.

    Secondly, if you look at the comments above, all of them are generally in line with the VC’s agenda. Not a single comment contradicting what the VC said has found a place here – only those in support, and it is telling that there are only 6 of those. Surely there should be many more comments from the 40,000+ students of the university. Unless of course those comments are scathing of the VC using his position to peddle such a deceptive and unpopular proposition.

    I have not come across a single homosexual to whom marriage is an issue. It is only the elite intellectual egotists who are running with it. Most homosexuals would agree that it is a lifestyle choice that they made. Whether we like it or not, our laws allow people to engage in any sort of activity they like in their sexual life, so that is not the issue. The issue is whether we would like the groundwork to be created to promote such lifestyle and there is an abundance of evidence of such promotional activity going on, even at an institutional level. The fact that a VC comes out promoting such an absurd proposition under the veneer of “equality” is one such proof, and there are many many more. Anyone who studies the trends in schools and educational institutions will notice it.

    Suddenly now those who highlight these arguments in support of an institution that goes back for centuries are being labelled as bigots and/or supporters of inequality and opposed to love. The question is – are we willing to let such a deceptive and dishonest social engineering agenda take hold in our society? The answer is a clear NO we can’t!

  5. You’ve jumped the gun a bit, Khair. There’s a couple of comments other than Emma’s and yours that reject the VC’s presumption that he’s a moral guardian on our behalf and must speak out therefore.

    Regarding the homosexual lifestyle choice. Phil took you to task on this, but he has confused homosexual orientation with lifestyle. Gay men and women adopt a variety of lifestyles. Some are flamboyant; some are promiscuous; some adopt the clothing and posture of the opposite sex; others are indistinguishable in appearance, manner and lifestyle from straight people, at least in the public eye.

    I think Khair makes a valid point. Until recently, SSM was simply not an issue amongst gay people, at least not in conversation with straight friends and associates. I worked for 11 years in a school in Asia in which 25% of the expatriate staff (c.100 people) were gay men. I don’t recollect one occasion where the topic of gay marriage was raised by any of these men, and they were perfectly open about being gay. Some of them, of course, were in stable gay relationships. About six years ago I raised the question with a close gay friend and he was not keen on the idea. He said his partner had suggested marriage, but he’d rejected the offer.

    “Marriage equality” is an issue entirely fabricated by a minority of gay people. I doubt that gay men have been reliably surveyed regarding their views. I think many would regard it as unnecessary and unmanly. Gay women might think differently. They might like a wedding.

  6. Sorry Adrian, my post was a day after yours so yes, there was one there. For a long time though there were only 6 Comments there and my recollection is that they were all supporting what the VS said – maybe all but one. Perhaps, we may have succeeded in forcing the issue. I know a lot of people who feel if they say what they feel they may be labelled as “bigot” or promoters of inequality, such has been the dishonest nature of this debate.

    What irks me most is that these same people like our VC don’t come out as strongly on matters that are of much greater significance for large numbers in terms of their lives and livelihoods. They are much more keen about social engineering issues.

    1. Hi Khair, I’ve had this same comment back by e-mail but I do not think it’s accurate. The University takes a stand on many issues one way or another, including promotion of regional development and investment, regional health issues, advancement of Indigenous people, support for refugees and of course nationally in terms of sustainability being as Australia’s first Federally-certified carbon neutral university. These could all be considered ‘social engineering’ of a sort.

      1. Sorry sir, you never wrote to me about any other matter and there have been so many major issues that you could have if you wanted to. The only time you wrote to us and many social engineers such as you have come forward is to ask that we destroy our centuries old institution that pervades all religions and non-religions across the world, to pander to the supposed right of a small minority which does not even care about the institution of marriage. This is the hypocrisy that astounds everyone.

        If indeed you wanted a fair discussion on this you would have allowed everyone at the university to express their views and write directly to students just as you did. Why do you assume that everyone or even a majority at the university are with you on this? When you say the university takes a stand you mean “you” take the stand – and so far the only stand you have taken is about destroying our institution of marriage.

        It is pathetic that you equate universal issues such as regional development, health, advancement of indigenous people and support for refugees with the homosexual lifestyle choice of a small minority; which incidentally no one is demanding to be stopped or curbed. But you want to engineer the society to change the people’s lifestyle and institutions to fit into your imagined world so that normal people start to feel guilty that they are not homo-sexual. The ill-effects of such lunatic thinking manifests itself in weird forms such as “safe schools programme”, “same-sex marriage”, “gender fluidity” and who knows what else such thinking will generate in the future.

        People are seeing through all this and I am confident there will be a resounding NO to this absurd proposition.

  7. I wonder why the university and/or its representatives feel impelled to engage in public moral and social activism at all. Isn’t it enough that the university restricts itself to public discourse on matters to do with higher education policy and practice? Frankly, I’m not interested in the university’s or its spokespeople’s views on health, immigration, indigenous affairs, regional development, marriage registration and the like unless it has a direct and acknowledged stake in these matters.

    1. We should not assume when the vice chancellor expresses an opinion it is the view of the university. It should be treated as his personal opinion, which is why I am disappointed that he used his position and the means at his disposal (email addresses of students) to promote a personal view against a tradition followed and supported by the overwhelming majority in the country.

      1. Khair, would love to hear your thoughts on your original comment “People are seeing through all this and I am confident there will be a resounding NO to this absurd proposition.”

        Given that it was a majority YES!!

        1. Indeed it was (except in the Muslim areas) and kudos to all those generous of spirit who thought they were voting for fairness. I hope it turns out that way, but suspect it’ll in fact act as a lever to remove more of the freedoms of choice, speech and action that individual citizens have enjoyed until recent decades. The Zeitgeist in Australia is not interested in these freedoms any more. It’s targeted minorities that are the focus of attention. The individual doesn’t count now, unless he or she is a member of a patronised minority.

  8. Well the vote is in and by all accounts mostly everyone is accepting of the result of the survey and the resultant vote into law in Parliament.

    There will be fringe debates about Religious fredoms/rights and other such issues however I think that like other milestones in societal cjange of the years this change will be widely accepted and by the time the next generation comes along they will be asking what all the fuss was about.

  9. What the fuss was about over such a superficially fringe issue will become apparent in the next few years as further attempts to re-engineer society’s customs and values get under way. We’ve seen the signs of it in the “Safe Schools” campaign. The fuss will not go away with “marriage equality”. It doesn’t concern me personally; I’m 74 and my children and grandchildren are going through life quite happily. They don’t think like me, but it’s their world; I’ve had my go. I wish everyone well.

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