A Plymouth University student has spoken of his “shock and anger” after he was refused permission to create a men’s forum “because men don’t face discrimination”.
Will Styles, 21, claims the board of trustees at the university’s student union told him in a letter that equal opportunities legislation does not include men - only groups who “have suffered ongoing and historic discrimination”.
“They can say no, but the justification needs to be valid,” the architecture student said.
“To say that a legal right doesn’t apply to me is a violation of the Equalities Act and their own equal opportunities policy.”
Styles, who says he identifies as a feminist, wants to create the forum to give men the opportunity to “sit down and discuss the issues facing them”.
The third year student continued: “We know that men don’t seek out help but a lot of men have mental health issues.
“So all it takes is a campaign on campus asking men to seek help for mental health issues - that could save their lives after they have left university. How fantastic could that be?”
While aimed at men, he said the forum would be open to all genders.
Styles also applied to the student council to create a men’s forum while in his first year, but the motion was defeated.
He has now almost collected the 250 student signatures he needs to allow him to put the motion in front of the council again.
“I just had no idea there would be any resistance to this,” Styles said, adding that he is also writing a letter of appeal to the board of trustees.
Styles has gained the support of some campaigners. International Men’s Day ambassador Mark Brooks called the decision to reject the forum “shocking and sexist”.
The University of Plymouth Student Union has not commented directly on Styles’ claims that the forum was rejected because men are not victims of discrimination, but insists that there is already a men’s discussion group.
Union president Lowri Jones said in a statement: “Male students meet with others once a week in a confidential setting to explore your [sic] ideas and values of what it means to be male.
According to Jones, the SU currently has 15 forums, which ensure “political representation for traditionally underrepresented groups whilst bringing like-minded people together”.
“These include four liberation forums: Students with Disabilities, BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic), LGBT+ and Women,” she continued.
“They were created in line with other organisations and policies because these are protected groups that have suffered historic oppression and marginalisation.”
Jones added: “We believe the student who wrote the original motion has been collecting signatures and we expect this issue to be debated again at a future UEC or at an all student Referendum.”