Race, gender politics swamp great debate at Sydney University

Race, gender politics swamp great debate at Sydney University, by Caroline Overington.

The politics of race and gender have arrived at the University of Sydney’s oldest debating club, which this year will field teams of debaters comprised mainly of “non-cis-males, wom*n, and persons marginalised by white ­supremacy” as opposed to the best debaters they can find.

The University of Sydney Union, which describes itself as “one of the best debating ­institutions in the world”, says its affirmative action policy will ­ensure that teams heading to the Australian Easter Debating Championships (or “Easters”) for novices next month will include more “persons of colour” and others from “minority ethno-cultural background” as well as born-women, and others who don’t identity as “cis-male”.

(A cis-gender person identifies as the sex they were assigned at birth. Wom*n is used to include females, trans women and anyone who identifies as a woman). …

The union, which boasts of being an equal world record ­holder when it comes to making the finals at the world debating championships, will also employ “equity officers” to attend the tournament to assist those who find debating “intensely competitive and stressful”. …

Sydney University Liberal Club president Joshua Crawford criticised the quotas, saying they were “an affront to fairness and merit”.

Mr Crawford said it was a ­“disgrace” that some students, “who have worked tirelessly to ­become some of the university’s top debaters” would be prevented from being on the team because of their gender. …

The affirmative action guidelines are complex, and may prove difficult to implement in some circumstances.

For example, the proportion of debaters who identify as non-cis-male across all teams attending Easters must be no less than 50 per cent. One third of tournament adjudicators must also identify as non-cis-male.

In addition, each of the top three teams must also have “at least one debater who identifies as being a person of colour, from a minority ethno-cultural background, or marginalised by white supremacy”.

Goodbye merit and hello identity politics, at one of Australis’s leading universities.

hat-tip Stephen Neil