A US academic who says transgender people are mentally ill and have “a delusional disorder” has had a speaking event at the University of Western Australia cancelled.
The university announced it had cancelled the talk by controversial US pediatric professor Pediatric endocrinologist Quentin Van Meter, organised by the conservative Australian Family Association, on Friday.
Van Meter, who is president of conservative splinter group American College of Pediatricians, has denied science surrounding transgender people and has likened allowing children with gender dysphoria to take puberty blockers was child abuse.
UWA had initially refused to cancel the event amid student protests and petitions this week, saying that while the university did not endorse opinions of speakers, cancelling the event would “create an undesirable precedent for the exclusion of objectionable views” from the institution.
But UWA said today it had cancelled the event, at which Van Meter was due to deliver the speech titled “The Transgender Movement: Its Origins and How Social Theory is Trumping Science”.
The university said it had been advised the safety risk surrounding the appearance “has been elevated to a higher level, which mandates a more robust event management plan” and organisers hadn’t provided risk assessment and event management paperwork by Thursday to meet the venue hire conditions.
“The university holds firm on the principles of freedom of expression and maintains its position that it does not wish to set a precedent for the exclusion of objectionable views from the campus,” it said.
“However in this case, the event hirers could not meet their obligations of the venue hire contract, providing no confidence that UWA could ensure safety on campus.”
A spokeswoman for the AFA said the association was “disturbed at the denial of freedom of speech in a place of academic learning”.
UWA Guild President Megan Lee told ABC News the student body group was “very relieved” the event had been cancelled, but was disappointed “the reasons were administrative”.
“We would have liked to see the university hold true to its values and policies in support of the LGBTIQ+ community,” she said.
“We want to make clear to the university that students in the Student Guild do not believe that there is a place for hate speech on campus.”
Ms Lee said respect for freedom of expression did not oblige UWA to provide the group with a platform.
“This is very much a place of academic learning and freedom of discussion, but that requires that we’re rooting our science in facts and reputable sources of information,” she said.
“The AFA and Dr Quentin Van Meter is very much basing his decisions on pseudo-science and a university is not an appropriate place for those discussions.”