Victoria University will review its event booking process after a growing backlash to its decision to rent out space for a fundraising event by the far-right anti-Islamic group the Q Society.
The Q Society held its dinner event at VU’s city convention centre on Friday night, prompting heavy criticism from outraged staff and students.
VU’s facility hire policy expressly forbids uses of University facilities that are not compatible with the university’s values or strategic direction.
National Tertiary Education Union VU branch spokesman Paul Adams said the booking was clearly out of kilter with the values of most staff and students.
“It absolutely beggars belief that Victoria University, a University which prides itself on diversity, inclusiveness and equity, could have accepted a booking by the anti-Islamic, far-right group the Q society for its city convention centre last Friday night.”
Dr Adams said the Q Society was a rabid anti-Islamic group with a long history of inciting hatred against Islam and Muslim groups.
He has called for a full investigation into the booking of the University’s convention centre and wants to see the money received for the centre’s hire donated to an Islamic charity.
The fundraising dinner, called Defending Freedom of Speech, featured Nationals MP George Christensen and Liberal defector Cory Bernardi.
Guests were forbidden from knowing the location ahead of time in a bid to evade protesters.
The event was held to raise funds to defend a defamation lawsuit by Mohamed El-Mouelhy, a Halal certifier.
It followed a similar event held in Sydney on Thursday night at which cartoonist Larry Pickering reportedly made anti-Islamic and homophobic remarks and auctioned off one of his works depicting the rape of a woman in a niqab by her son-in-law.
“Let’s be honest, I can’t stand Muslims… if they are in the same street as me, I start shaking,” he said.
“They are not all bad, they do chuck pillow-biters off buildings.”
The Q Society’s webpage says the organisation was formed in response to “growing concerns about the discrimination, violence and other anti-democratic practices linked to Islam.”
An open letter demanding an apology from Victoria University has been issued by dozens of staff, students and supporters.
The letter suggests that providing a venue for the Q Society contradicts the university’s vision of being ‘…open and excellent, creating exceptional value for any student from any background and uplifting the communities in which we operate’.
“It also threatens Victoria University Safer Community strategy, which is designed to foster an inclusive and safe environment for staff, students and the broader community.”
Victoria University hosts the Al Iman Islamic School on its Melton campus.
The university issued a statement via social media on Sunday indicating that it prides itself on being an inclusive and supportive institution for all its staff and students.
“We understand your concerns. Please be assured that the views of the Q Society are completely at odds with VU’s values,” it posted to its Facebook page in response to an outpouring of criticism.
“We’re currently reviewing the process used for the booking of our premises on Friday night.”
Victoria University declined to reveal when the booking was made, how the decision was vetted, or what it will do with the money it took for the booking.
In an email to staff on Monday afternoon, VU Vice-Chancellor Peter Dawkins said there is “a stark divergence” of many of the Q Society’s views from VU’s values.
“Given that VU has a policy on venue hire which states that University facilities will not be made available for activities that are in conflict with or deemed incompatible with the University’s values or strategic direction, we are taking swift action to review all administrative processes.
“VU deeply regrets that it inadvertently took a booking for this event and apologises for any distress caused to our staff, students and other stakeholders.”