An online petition by UTas students has garnered over 100 signatures in three hours as students rally against the Tasmanian University Union’s (TUU) stance on the proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act.
Social media backlash ensued after the TUU said in a press release on Tuesday that students “welcomed” the change of wording in Section 18C of the Act.
TUU State President Clark Cooley said, “Freedom of speech should be a fundamental right of all Australians, but under the current laws we’ve seen this right limited, and attacked. These measures work towards the right balance between the protection of racial discrimination and the right to free speech.”
Students have taken issue with an inaccurate representation of their views and the lack of consultation in the lead up to the Tuesday announcement.
Holly Ewin, creator of the petition on change.org, said, “Clark Cooley may have been elected president of the TUU, but his political opinions do not speak for the vast majority of UTAS students. His statement was made without any consultation with the student community, and is therefore highly unrepresentative.”
Ewin has called for an apology from the union, stating that their comments are “unrepresentative, divisive, and upsetting; particularly given the cultural diversity of UTAS.”
The petition will be delivered to Mr Cooley, UTAS Vice-Chancellor Peter Rathjen, Editor-in-Chief of student magazine Togatus, and three student political leaders. Mr Cooley has been contacted for comment.
Students can sign the petition here.