It’s been a very entertaining few weeks following Sydney University’s decision to take disciplinary action against key organisers of the violent protest against me. The SMH chose to run the story under a headline announcing students were giving the green light to protesters – picking up on a ludicrous remark by the University Registrar saying that both the protest and my talk were “expressions of free speech.” Seems a bit odd then that they chose to punish the protest organisers? But that logical inconsistency somehow escaped the SMH journalist.
Next, we saw the key organiser Maddy Ward bleating on Facebook that I had “weaponised the misconduct system against her” by asking the University to enforce their own codes of conduct with regard to students bullying and harassing other students. Of course, it was the authoritarian left which insisted on introducing endless regulations about such behaviour at universities so it is rather a hoot that they object to finding themselves on the receiving end.
This was followed by further madness from Vice Chancellor Michael Spence who then told the SMH that students weren’t daring to participate in conversations on campus for fear of “being shouted at by Bettina Arndt.” He also claimed Senator Amanda Stoker had wasted public money by using Senate Estimates to question TEQSA, the tertiary regulatory body, regarding free speech on campus and Sydney University’s mishandling of my protest. Michael Spence’s public utterances on this whole issue become more bizarre every day.
Last weekend saw further interesting developments with Education Minister Dan Tehan accusing leading universities of “failing Australia” by refusing to champion free speech on campus. Writing in the Weekend Australian, Tehan demanded the sector demonstrate leadership and pushed for universities to implement the “model code” recommended by former High Court chief justice Robert French to uphold free speech and academic freedoms.
Condemning the position taken by universities such as Sydney, Tehan described the French review as “a call to action” and accused universities of “burying their heads in the sand”. The newspaper also reported the UWA has finalised a statement making clear its expectation that students “must be open to a free exchange of ideas that may clash with their beliefs and make them feel uncomfortable.” Now, that’s a refreshing position!
Apparently, UWA vice-chancellor Dawn Freshwater is championing the new statement on freedom of expression which marks the first serious response to the French review, which urged the higher education sector to make near unfettered speech a “paramount value”.
So that’s all good news and I’m delighted with the support I am receiving from people everywhere concerned about what’s happening in our universities.
But on a lighter note, I’ve just put together another little video showing highlights from some of the news interviews this week about these ongoing developments.
It starts with a pretty funny clip from an SBS Viceland programme on campus deplatforming, which went to air last week. This shows a fascinating exchange I had with the young host of the programme, Marty Smiley, who suggested that reason for the deplatforming skirmishes might be his generation of snowflakes are simply more compassionate and caring. Note my howl of laughter at this absurd suggestion and my rejoinder – namely that, on the contrary, I think his generation is simply better at producing crocodile tears over fashionable causes but doesn’t actually do anything about things that really matter.
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