ANU chancellor calls for “push-back” against intrusions on uni autonomy  

ANU is holding a conference on free speech at universities, perhaps to practise the lines it will use if Education Minister Dan Tehan decides the government needs to ensure people with unpopular opinions get a hearing on campuses.

On Tuesday night new ANU fellow Glyn Davis explained the real problems universities face, none of which includes protecting free-speech (CMM yesterday). And yesterday the university’s chancellor, Gareth Evans , extended his robust October endorsement of “the traditional idea of the university as the home of free speech, of the clash of ideas, of unconstrained argument and debate,” (CMM October 4).

Universities know how to foster debate and pursue ideas and should be left to do it, he said yesterday. In particular, “it is critical that we push back against, and demand absolutely, rock-solid justifications for, anything which intrudes on our traditional autonomy, above all on our capacity to support and encourage those aspects of both research and teaching that go the very essence of what it is to be a university,” Professor Evans added.

“We have to make, unashamedly, the case for doing the blue-sky research that universities have always done, research for research’s sake, and research where even the potential for measurable real-world practical impact may be non-existent or, at best far distant, which may well be largely the case for humanities disciplines like history, philosophy, literature, classics, linguistics, art and music.”

CMM is sure  that if Mr Tehan wants to defend his idea for a ‘national interest” research test  for research at ANU he will be heard politely.