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University departments support marriage equality in face of Vice Chancellor’s inaction

'This is not an issue that requires further debate, but one that urgently requires your support.'

Staff from the University's research portfolio. Photo: Martin Rorke. Staff from the University's research portfolio. Photo: Martin Rorke.

Several members of University of Sydney staff and the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) have called for Vice Chancellor Michael Spence to formalise the University’s position on same-sex marriage by publicly supporting the yes vote.

Members of the School of Literature, Arts and Media, and staff from the University’s research portfolio today posted photos on social media to publicly demonstrate their support for marriage equality.

The NTEU has also launched a petition calling on Spence to support marriage equality. This follows student protests last week which similarly asked the Vice Chancellor to publicly support changing the law.

Spence has been firm in his intention to remain neutral in the marriage equality debate. In an email to staff, he said: “I do not believe it appropriate for us to adopt an institutional position … Universities in the secular liberal tradition are essentially fora for debate in which ideas can be freely expressed and discussed.”

“We can see that open and respectful debate is, on face value, worth striving for. However, the very question of marriage equality appears predicated on an over-arching lack of respect for people in the LGBTQI+ community,” the NTEU petition reads.

“If the University of Sydney claims to ‘lead to improve the world around us’, as stated on our Vision and Values home-page, why would it not be willing to join the many other Australian academic institutions that publicly support marriage equality?

“This is not an issue that requires further debate, but one that urgently requires your support.”

Charles Sturt University, Curtin University, Deakin University, La Trobe University, Monash University, RMIT University, Swinburne University, the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and the University of Western Australia have all publicly supported the Australian Marriage Equality campaign.

Students have argued that the University’s neutrality on the matter is hypocritical, pointing to the use of same-sex marriage imagery in its Unlearn marketing campaign.

This follows a number of alleged homophobic incidents at the University recently, including the painting over of a mural celebrating queer visibility last week, and news that a Deputy Vice Chancellor was stood down amongst the University’s failure to address rumours of a relationship between him and another male member of staff.

The NTEU says it will be co-ordinating further action on the issue.