ANU adopts statement to protect academic freedom

The ANU Academic Board has published a university statement on academic freedom, which includes;

Academic freedom enables scholars within the university to pursue knowledge, speak and write without unreasonable restriction. This includes the right to comment on political matters including policies affecting higher education, and the actions of the university, on the basis of legitimate intellectual and professional criteria. The Australian National University affirms its institutional right and responsibility, and the rights and responsibilities of its members, to free enquiry. The university will defend the right of our staff and students to exercise their academic freedom, provided it is done with rigour and evidence.”

Work was underway long before the Ramsay Western Civ Centre negotiations blew-up and the statement certainly would not prevent an academic teaching the “alleged superiority of western culture and civilisation,” which upset the campus branch of the NTEU (CMM May 23).

However, the Academic Board statement does cover a case in the College of Law where student comments critical of the federal government’s asylum seeker policy were deleted from marketing collateral. VC Brian Schmidt intervened on that one stating; ““ANU prides itself on the principle of academic freedom and I am always proud to see our students standing up for issues they feel strongly about. I am disappointed this happened and everybody has learned from it,” (/ CMM March 22).

The new statement appears to extend to professional staff, as well as students, researchers and teachers. “Academic freedom is enjoyed by all members of ANU: staff, students and official visitors. It is exercised through activities relating to that membership centred on the three pillars of teaching, research and public engagement.”

Professor Schmidt backed the statement Friday, thanking AB chair Jacqueline Lo and stating, “we must continue to protect academic freedom within the University to enable the pursuit of knowledge and the exploration of challenging and new ideas that are fundamental to our purpose.”


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