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Posted by: Bear Jun 12 2018, 07:58 PM
Turnbull wants ANU to tell him why it pulled out of western civilisation degree.

PM to speak to Australian National University vice-chancellor over end to Ramsay Centre deal talks.

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Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull says it’s ‘very hard to understand’ why ANU walked away from a controversial western civilisation degree. Photograph: Glenn Hunt/AAP.

Malcolm Turnbull says he will contact the vice-chancellor of the Australian National University after it pulled out of negotiations with the John Howard-backed Ramsay Centre to establish a controversial western civilisation degree.

Campaigning in the Queensland byelection seat of Longman on Thursday, the prime minister weighed in on the growing feud between ANU and the conservative organisation by saying he found the decision “hard to understand”.

“Look, I’m surprised by the decision of the ANU,” he said. “I’m going to speak to the vice-chancellor about it myself and just get his account of it. But I do, I find it very hard to understand why that proposal from the Ramsay Foundation would not have been accepted with enthusiasm.”

The ANU vice-chancellor, Brian Schmidt, announced the decision to pull out of negotiations with the Ramsay Centre last Friday.

In a statement earlier this week, Schmidt said he had made the decision after coming to the conclusion the university had a “fundamentally different vision for the program than the Ramsay Centre, and that there was no prospect of us reaching agreement”.

The western civilisation degree course was the brainchild of the late healthcare mogul, Paul Ramsay, and was part of a $3.3bn bequest.

But the lucrative donation was mired in controversy. In April former prime minister Tony Abbott – a member of the Ramsay Centre board – published an article in the conservative publication Quadrant stating the Ramsay Centre was “not merely about western civilisation but in favour of it”.

That prompted a backlash from the National Tertiary Education Union and students over fears about the academic independence of the degree.

In a letter sent by the president of the ANU branch of the NTEU, Matthew King, to the vice-chancellor a week before the decision was made to withdraw from negotiations, the union said it held “grave concerns” about the degree.

King wrote that Abbott’s article suggested the course would “pursue a narrow, radically conservative program to demonstrate and promulgate the alleged superiority of western culture and civilisation”.

On Wednesday the education minister, Simon Birmingham, accused the NTEU of using “fear and negativity” to force the university to back down.

“This is a significant bequest that could be of great benefit to Australian universities and I hope that one or more than one of them seize upon the opportunities this bequest creates,” he said in Senate estimates.

“I hope [universities] stare down the fear and negativity that the likes of the NTEU or various student unions engage in from time to time, and recognise that academic freedom and free academic inquiry should extend across all disciplines and not be constrained by union officials or branches across institutions.”

Here is a link to a Tas Talks Podcast with Brian Carlton, he interviews Tony Abbott on this topic, Podcast 32 on the list, jump to 10:40 to hear this interview.

And, another link to Cory Bernardi - episode 14 6/6/18

Why are so-called 'progressives' so anti-white?

Western Culture is one of the best cultures in the world, if not the best culture - we have come along way, and our culture continues to contribute in a postive way.

Posted by: lee Jun 13 2018, 03:39 PM
Only left-wing policies applied at our universities.We must wipe out any reference to civilisation.

Posted by: Bill Jun 13 2018, 04:35 PM
Western Culture is one of the best cultures in the world, if not the best culture - we have come along way, and our culture continues to contribute in a postive way.

Interesting comment Bear.

Maybe we should hear from the man himself as to the reason why the decision was made......rather than rely on the off the cuff opinions of conservative politicians.

Presenting ANU Vice Chancellor, Brian Schmidt.

ANU responds to criticism over Centre for Western Civilisation decision

Video interview on 7.30:

ANU Vice Chancellor, Brian Schmidt, says the university ended negotiations to establish a partnership with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation because it threatened the university's autonomy.

STAN GRANT, PRESENTER: Well, it's not often that you see the Prime Minister intervene in the academic affairs of universities, but the controversy around the decision of the Australian National University to reject a course in Western civilisation has become so heated, that's exactly what the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, did today.

He said he'd be seeking an explanation about why the university walked away from talks with the Ramsay Centre to set up the course, which was to be funded by a philanthropic donation.

Brian Schmidt is the vice-chancellor of the ANU. He joined me a short time ago.

Brian Schmidt, lovely to have you on the program.

The Prime Minister has said that he effectively wants a please-explain, that he'll be calling you to seek answers as to why you have said no to this Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation.

Has he called yet?

PROFESSOR BRIAN SCHMIDT, VICE-CHANCELLOR OF THE AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY: Ah, so Stan, no, we haven't had a chance to catch up, but I believe we'll be doing so tomorrow.

I always really enjoy having a chance to talk to the Prime Minister, so I look forward to that.

STAN GRANT: Are you concerned that this has reached a stage where the Prime Minister feels he has to intervene?

BRIAN SCHMIDT: Ah, well, it is certainly a topic that has received a lot of attention and, you know, there's a lot of misinformation out there.

STAN GRANT: Well, he wouldn't be intervening if he wasn't seriously concerned.

BRIAN SCHMIDT: Well, we are the national university, Stan, and so it is, obviously, an issue of great community concern, and I'm happy to take him through the issues, but it really comes down to academic autonomy, and that is the issue that is central to what made the university have the decision that it ended up taking.

STAN GRANT: On that question, what was the Ramsay Centre seeking to do that you found so offensive?

BRIAN SCHMIDT: Well, I mean, there's a whole range of six months' worth of negotiations that took place in good faith by both sides.

But in the end, the centre was asking for a level of influence in our staffing and curriculum unprecedented with any other donor we've ever dealt with.

And so, it is that that undermines the academic autonomy of the university, and it is that which caused us to decide to withdraw from negotiations.

STAN GRANT: Can I be clear just on what they were demanding because you're saying there on appointments, on staffing? Were they seeking to have people appointed that they would vet, that they would approve?

BRIAN SCHMIDT: So it was a multifaceted set of negotiations, and I don't want to go into the details partially because they were done in confidence, and I don't want to breach that confidence.

But, Stan, what I am saying is that the level of influence they wanted was unprecedented with any other program we've done.

We approach every donor in the same way and, if we would have set a precedent here, it would have undermined the credibility of the university.

STAN GRANT: Professor Schmidt, that's a very different view to what we're hearing from the Ramsay Centre, who have said that they maintain the principles of academic autonomy at all times.

John Howard, the former prime minister, who's been involved in these negotiations says that there was a provisional agreement reached on the curriculum. He believed there was a clear understanding about how to handle any contentious issues.

Is he wrong?

BRIAN SCHMIDT: I would say that we had not reached an agreement. There had been discussions, they had been advanced. They have been discussed by our staff.

But we had not reached an agreement and indeed, in our discussions, he said to me, "We're not even halfway there," which I agreed with.

We weren't halfway there and so, you know, in the end, it is my job, as the vice-chancellor, when we discuss with a donor and we realise we're not going to reach agreement, it is my job to go through and move on.

It's fair not just to us, but to the donor themselves.

STAN GRANT: The university has been accused by some, including heads of other universities, of being "gutless" about this.

Now, if we look at the time line, the National Tertiary Education Union, the ANU student associations, warned of a backlash if this went ahead.

In fact, were you responding to that? Is that what scared you off?

BRIAN SCHMIDT: So, Stan, let me make very clear that this was done for one reason, and one reason only - academic autonomy.

Now, there's been a lot of discussion out in the media by people who were not around the negotiating table, and so their discussions are not based in the reality that I faced.

STAN GRANT: There is another issue here. Tony Abbott, who's been a supporter of this, a proponent of this centre, has said that it is not just about the teaching of Western civilisation, it is for Western civilisation.

If we look at the other side, is it also the case that universities right now can be accused of being anti-Western civilisation?

BRIAN SCHMIDT: So Stan, I can only speak for the ANU, but the ANU is not anti-Western civilisation and, indeed, we have one of the most dynamic programs not just in Australia, but the world.

You know, amongst all this kerfuffle today, we were once again ranked as one of the top 25 universities in the world, and that's the basis, that is based on that academic autonomy we have.

Stan, we have more than 150 courses in areas around Western studies. It would take you 18 years to study all those courses at ANU.

STAN GRANT: Indeed. I've had a look at some of those courses and this was just a very quick glance at some of them.

But here's one, for instance: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History - exploring the ways that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people draw on a range of personal, social and cultural resources to compensate for the adversities brought about by colonisation.

Here's another one: Bachelor of Politics and Philosophy - where graduates will study whether it is rational to vote in national elections, or why favour democratic political institutions.

Another: The study of literature, Empire and its Fictions - particular attention paid to race, gender and class generated by texts.

The critique or the criticism here is that, yes, Western civilisation is studied, but from a hostile or adversarial point of view. That it isn't an open-ended study - it is loaded.

BRIAN SCHMIDT: Well, Stan, with all due respect, you've picked out three very specific courses from 150.

Amongst those 150 courses, we cover things that are incredibly traditional.

Now, universities are all about taking a critical look at subjects and so we have a whole range of things, and we could have equally picked out things that would have caused no objections whatsoever.

So I don't think those three courses are even remotely typical of the huge range of offerings we have.

STAN GRANT: It was just a glance, but they immediately appeared.

Just finally, is this idea dead now, is it finished? You will not be resurrecting it at your university? Do you expect other universities to pick it up?

BRIAN SCHMIDT: I'm always open to a renewed approach from anyone, whether it be the Ramsay Centre or anyone else.

So, no, it's certainly not dead. We look at everything with a fresh pair of eyes. But I do need to have assurances that our academic autonomy is going to be preserved in anything we do.

STAN GRANT: Brian Schmidt, good to talk to you. Thank you again.

BRIAN SCHMIDT: Thank you, Stan.

Sounds reasonable to me.

Posted by: lee Jun 13 2018, 05:09 PM
Oh. Autonomy. Like JCU and the sacking of Peter Ridd.

Posted by: scepo Jun 14 2018, 02:05 PM
I have no doubt whatever that Brian Schmidt's word would be gospel.

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