A men's rights group at Ryerson University in Toronto is suing the student union for allegedly discriminating against the group's right to free speech.
First reported by The Eyeopener, the lawsuit was launched by the Ryerson Men's Issues Awareness Society (MIAS) founder Kevin Arriola and social media coordinator Alex Godlewski last week. It cites how the Ryerson Student Union (RSU) denied legitimacy to the men's right group as reason for concern, and it also asks that the university give the group official status on campus.
"As members and executives of MIAS and students of Ryerson University, we feel excluded from the Ryerson community. The allegations leveled against us by RSU have caused us to be ostracized by fellow students and have sabotaged our confidence and desire to engage with our fellow students," an affidavit from Arriola reads.
"We feel marginalized and discriminated against by RSU simply because we want to host discussions about issues affecting men and boys."
The Ryerson Men's Issues Awareness Society (MIAS) has been embroiled in a battle for recognition and approval as a legitimate student group by the university's student union since being rejected as group last October. MIAS filed an appeal to be reexamined, but was rejected again in January.
The RSU has argued that the issues addressed by MIAS—particularly male homelessness, suicide, and incarceration—are already being tackled by groups such as the Women's and Trans Collective, and critics have argued that the group would open the door for anti-feminist dialogue on campus.
"These groups have actively promoted aggression towards marginalized communities such as, but not limited to, women-identified people, trans people and racialized communities on campuses across the country including at the University of Toronto, Ryerson University, and York University,' a December petition from the Ryerson Feminist Collective against the approval of MIAS reads.
Last year, a volley of death threats against feminist figures at University of Toronto caused the university to point the finger at men's rights group like the Canadian Association For Equality (CAFE) for inspiring hate speech. CAFE has also been connected to MIAS after criticizing the RSU for rejecting the group, and said they would be collecting donations to help fight a "groundbreaking" male discrimination discrimination case. Arriola told VICE that CAFE acted as a "middleman" that helped them launch the lawsuit.
Despite comparisons between MIAS and inflammatory MRA groups like CAFE, Arriola told VICE that the characterization that his group is anti-feminist is wrong.
"There's nothing in our mandate and nothing that we've done toward that opinion. All of our events have concentrated on men's health, so I don't know why they would think that. Really, it sort of comes out of ignorance, it paints everyone with the same brush. It comes out of this idea that all men's right groups [are the same]."
Arriola told VICE that his hope is that future iterations of the student union won't be able to block them, but RSU President Andrea Bartlett told VICE that groups "cannot force the RSU to give them students' money" if the groups values run contrary to the ethics of the student body.
"The RSU cannot associate itself or approve groups on campus that receive support from external organizations that endorse anti-feminist actions," she told VICE. "The weeks of harassment that our female board members received throughout the appeal process demonstrated the type of toxic atmosphere that can be made. We stand by the decision of our board of directors as it is our belief that this group's mandate is contrary to our core values."
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