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Speak against transport privatisation and you will lose your job.…

Speak against transport privatisation and you will lose your job.…
Dr Paul Mees—one of the few academics whose community contribution is accessible and public through the general media—was demoted for speaking out against the further privatisation of what is left of Melbourne meagre public transport system. In a concerted move between State Government and the university authorities, a decision was made to ‘downgrade’ Dr Mees for making his views public. During a forum on the privatisation of Melbourne public transport, in August last year, Dr Mees claimed that figures presented by the government on the results of privatisation were “deliberately misleading”. (C. Lucas. “Melbourne Uni demotes transport dissident”, The Age, 20/05/08)
 
The situation raises concerns about the right of academics to engage and support the community against government agendas that have already had and will continue to have a detrimental impact in their quality of living and the quality of the urban space.
 
The following statement by The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) identifies some of the issues in play, one of which is the ‘reputation’ of the university in question. The NTEU’s comments are commendable and show a level of solidarity unfashionable within some academic circles. However, for educational institutions such as the University of Melbourne, ‘reputation’ is accompanied by a dollar figure. Issues of freedom of expression and intellectual rigour (including ethical behaviour), as demonstrated by this action, have long taken a backstage.
 
In the attack, made at a public forum last year, Dr Mees said the authors of a 2007 report on privatisation were "liars and frauds and should be in jail". (http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/uni-damaged-over-dissident-row/2008/05/20/1211182764879.html)
 
 
Given that Dr Mees has for long researched into the situation of Melbourne Public Transport, Dr Mees comments are just what academics like to call a very comprehensive “plain English Statement”.  
 
In a statement issued today, the National Tertiary Education Union said the University of Melbourne's reputation and standing as an institution upholding the highest standards of intellectual rigour and academic freedom had been damaged by its handling of the issue.
 
Union state secretary Matthew McGowan said the university, in its own collective agreement, committed itself to "upholding the scholarly values of intellectual freedom, honesty, openness and rigour, consistent with the university's vision" and defined intellectual freedom as "the freedom of academic staff ... to engage in critical inquiry, intellectual discourse and public controversy without fear or favour, but does not include the right to harass, intimidate or vilify". ) http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/uni-damaged-over-dissident-row/2008/05/20/1211182764879.html)
 
 
Beatriz C. Maturana
 

Comments

  • edited May 2008
    Speak against transport privatisation and you may lose your job!
    Dr Paul Mees—one of the few academics whose contribution to the community is accessible and public through the general media—was demoted for speaking out against the further privatisation of what is left of Melbourne meagre public transport system. During a forum on the privatisation of Melbourne public transport, in August last year, Dr Mees claimed that figures presented by the government on the results of privatisation were “deliberately misleading”. (C. Lucas. “Melbourne Uni demotes transport dissident”, The Age, 20/05/08).
     
    This situation raises concerns about the right of academics to engage and support the community against government agendas that had and continue to have detrimental impacts to their quality of life (connectivity) and the quality of the urban space.
     
    The following statement by The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) identifies some of the issues in play, one of which is the ‘reputation’ of the university in question. The NTEU’s comments are commendable and show a level of solidarity unfashionable within some academic circles. However, for some educational institutions ‘reputation’ is preceded by a dollar figure. Issues of freedom of expression and intellectual rigour (including ethical behaviour), as demonstrated by this action, have long taken a backstage.
    In the attack, made at a public forum last year, Dr Mees said the authors of a 2007 report on privatisation were "liars and frauds and should be in jail". (http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/uni-damaged-over-dissident-row/2008/05/20/1211182764879.html) 
    Given that Dr Mees has for long researched into the situation of Melbourne Public Transport, Dr Mees comments are just what academics like to call, a very comprehensive “Plain English Statement”.  
    In a statement issued today, the National Tertiary Education Union said the University of Melbourne's reputation and standing as an institution upholding the highest standards of intellectual rigour and academic freedom had been damaged by its handling of the issue.
    Union state secretary Matthew McGowan said the university, in its own collective agreement, committed itself to "upholding the scholarly values of intellectual freedom, honesty, openness and rigour, consistent with the university's vision" and defined intellectual freedom as "the freedom of academic staff ... to engage in critical inquiry, intellectual discourse and public controversy without fear or favour, but does not include the right to harass, intimidate or vilify". ) http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/uni-damaged-over-dissident-row/2008/05/20/1211182764879.html)
     
    Beatriz C. Maturana
  • edited May 2008
    The Age has published some comments by Prof. Miles Lewis. A bit of hope among deep silence ...
    Interesting how the University declares to pay attention to the "how" the comments were delivered and not to the 'content' of those comments--bit of twisted morallity there?.
    Uni accused of 'hatchet job' on lecturer
    David Rood and Clay Lucas, May 21, 2008<!--bylineDetails--><!--articleDetails-->

    A PROMINENT Melbourne University academic has accused the institution of a "secret hatchet job" after a colleague was demoted following an attack on the State Government's transport policy.

    Architecture professor Miles Lewis said the university had lost one of its remaining original thinkers and public polemicists, planning and transport senior lecturer Paul Mees.
    "A decade or two ago, the university accepted that academics in the public domain, like journalists, would cop the occasional complaint or writ," Professor Lewis writes in a letter to The Age...
    Find this article: http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/uni-accused-of-hatchet-job-on-lecturer/2008/05/20/1211182801445.html
  • edited 3:48PM
    "The report, by Monash University law professor Michael King, acknowledged some comments that Dr Mees had made valid points over the governments claimed that consultants report was independent when in fact parts of the report had been copied verbatim from as government memo. But the report found that Dr Mees went too far in his remarks. " http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,23735357-12332,00.html

     
     
  • edited May 2008
    I was sorry to hear about this situation, and have emailed the Vice-Chancellor of the University. Some things just cannot be left unsaid. For interest, I have attached my comments below:
    I am a Planning Manager in London and whilst I studied at RMIT some time ago, I was very sorry to hear of Melbourne University's public denouncement of Paul Mees' presentation over the continuing privatisation of public transport. He is very distinguished in his field, and there are many that agree with his position. Quite a number of my colleagues even here in London have studied under him or have ready his work. I also understand you are undertaking an investigation into whether Paul Mees has damaged the University's reputation. I believe the University's actions towards Paul Mees have damaged the reputation of the University. I fundamentally disagree with the view that the defence of the truth, particularly considering the role of an educational institution, can be dismissed.



    The University's support of Australia's continuing degradation of freedom of speech, particularly as it affects Australian politics, is utterly embarrassing and play a great part in my decision to leave Australia some time ago. Fortunately Europe adopts a far more mature position on matters such as public transport and freedom of speech, and I would certainly expect no university here to behave in this woeful manner. Why the University feels that as an educational institution it has a duty to appease to the views of the Government is beyond me. Appalling!



    Javiera
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