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Academic Freedom

edited May 2008 in architecture
In response to the report in The Age yesterday


"YOUR report will cause anguish to staff, students and alumni of the faculty of architecture, which now loses one of its few remaining original thinkers and public polemicists.
But it will not cause surprise. The "Melbourne model" requires the relentless pursuit of mediocrity and the routing out of any independent intellects from the university. Research is to be tailored to the requirements of government and industry bodies prepared to pay for it. Undergraduate teaching is to be reduced to the lowest common denominator defined by fee-paying non-English-speaking students. Giant classes will be taught sententious cliches and Wikipedia knowledge by the most junior members of staff.

A decade or two ago, the university accepted that academics in the public domain, like journalists, would cop the occasional complaint or writ. The university would support them and fund their defence. Now it requires a mere complaint, and the university launches a secret hatchet job.

If I write with passion it is because I can say, with no pleasure but some pride, that I have been hounded by some of the same grey apparatchiks who have sunk their fangs into Dr Mees.

Miles Lewis, faculty of architecture, University of Melbourne"

Comments

  • edited May 2008
    Speak against transport privatisation and you may lose your job!
    Originally posted in arch-peace: here



    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. 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)
     
    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



    It is with relief that I read Prof Miles Lewis' comments today. His voice helps to restore some respect for (some) academics--him.
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