Fears over transphobic, homophobic posts at AU hall of residence

Author
Jake McKee Cagney, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sat, 29 May 2021, 9:21AM
Auckland University students. (Photo / Michael Craig)
Auckland University students. (Photo / Michael Craig)

Fears over transphobic, homophobic posts at AU hall of residence

Author
Jake McKee Cagney, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sat, 29 May 2021, 9:21AM

Students at a University of Auckland residential facility feel their safety is "threatened" after a series of anonymous homophobic and transphobic posts online.

The posts have appeared in two places relating to Carlaw Park Student Village: a Facebook page titled "Carlaw Confessions 2021" and an online survey sent to residents regarding the formation of a Pride group at the hall of residence, which is for undergraduate and postgraduate students who are not high school leavers.

Posts on the now-deleted Facebook page called the gay community "perverted" and said non-binary identifying persons were "just narcissistic people wanting to feel special by claiming they are [transgender] when they're actually not".

There was one post written directly to "my transphobic brothers", claiming the page administrator "is on our side".

"We know this because 99% of this s*** wouldn't have been posted otherwise. I know none of you are foolish enough to like the posts or comment your support, but I believe our numbers are strong. Keep the faith, our time will come."

Another suggested the "guys meming [sic] the pronouns" started a group: "keen for a barbeque or any kind of social stuff".

Before the page was deleted, an administrator posted the group did not support the posts – "we just post everything".

Multiple students have expressed their concerns, which the university is aware of.

Lily Chen, who identifies as queer and lives in the hall, said the posts made her feel "threatened".

Aerial image of the Carlaw Park redevelopment. (Photo / Brett Phibbs)

She said since the page was deleted about a fortnight ago, similar comments had been made through a Carlaw-affiliated survey seeking responses to the formation of a Pride group. A university spokesperson confirmed the group was supported by staff.

Chen said the university should be more proactive if it was aware there were concerns.

"This isn't an isolated incident," she said.

A transgender student in the hall said it was "worrying" people would take the time to write such posts, some at length. They were concerned to know how they would be treated in person because "there were many people who didn't see a problem or considered it free speech".

The student said complaints had been made but no action was taken beyond the "accommodation team".

With new messages on a different platform, the student felt the university had "a responsibility to address" the situation. The student said it was a "potential safety issue" because the people "sending these messages can hide who they are but many members of the LGBTQ+ [community] cannot nor should they have to".

Chen said the new messages showed the hateful comments were coming from within Carlaw.

A university spokesperson stressed the Facebook page was not endorsed by the tertiary provider, restricting what action could be taken.

However, the survey is directly affiliated with Carlaw. It is understood the university is aware of those additional comments.

But the spokesperson said it was disappointing Carlaw residents could be "espousing ideas that are harmful to others".

"The university is committed to working with our residents to educate, inform and support, at all levels from school leaver to PhD."