Late last month the University of Sydney Student Union blocked the establishment of a new student group named The Brotherhood, Recreation and Outreach Society (BROSoc), whose focus was to provide a safe space for men on campus and address mental health issues specific to men. Subsequently, the Clubs and Societies (C&S) program, an administrative agency at the university, approved BROSoc’s formation and granted them probationary status as a society. However, at its monthly meeting, the Student Union Board voted against allowing BROSoc to formally join the C&S program, with many directors voicing concerns regarding its “narrow focus on traditional masculinity.”
It was the first time in over 10 years that the Student Union Board had blocked the establishment of a new student group.
The BROSoc had intended to set up a Men’s Shed on campus, linking it to the popular not-for-profit mental health program Men’s Sheds for men and boys that has been broadly successful since it was founded in 2007.
Queer Portfolio holder and USU Board Director Liam Carrigan argued that allowing the formation of BROSoc could cause “significant damage” to the queer community, especially among trans and genderqueer members.
Kate Bullen, Women’s Portfolio holder and Board Director, took a similar line, stating that BROSoc was “clearly not about breaking down gender roles” and would be potentially exclusionary toward women.
Board Director Liv Ronan expressed discomfort at potentially voting down BROSoc’s application, saying that the founders seemed “well-intentioned” and that she felt it was inappropriate to predict that they would automatically create an exclusive and unfriendly space.
Board Director Kate Denton, the only dissenting member, argued that the board was wrongly characterizing BROSoc as a “men’s rights club” rather than seeing it as an opportunity to meaningfully engage men on campus and help them with mental health problems.
The board instead passed a supplementary motion empowering Honorary Secretary Eve Radunz to consult with BROSoc’s founders in view of them redrafting their constitution and refining their aims to be explicitly non-exclusionary.
There is no reported indication as to what the board meant by “non-exclusionary.”