Back in April it looked like the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation was an all but done deal at ANU, with staff and student consultations concluded. Courses were to be approved through ANU processes, and academic governance and staffing selection procedures were ready for final approval.
But then former prime minister and centre board member Tony Abbott published a praising piece on the project in Quadrant. “The key to understanding the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation is that it’s not merely about western civilisation but in favour of it,” Mr Abbott wrote.
Which the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union did not like one bit. “It would appear the Ramsay Centre seeks to pursue a narrow, radically conservative program to demonstrate and promulgate the alleged superiority of western culture and civilisation. Any association, real or perceived, with this divisive cultural and political agenda could potentially damage the intellectual reputation of the humanities at ANU and the ANU more broadly, union branch president Matthew King warns Vice Chancellor Brian Schmidt.
Mr King is also concerned that Ramsay Centre staff will, “wield considerable influence over staffing and curriculum decisions.”
The union calls on the VC to make a “clear statement” of the university’s commitment “to academic freedom, integrity, autonomy and independence” and that the university’s academic board will be “the ultimate arbiter of academic standards.”
“We feel it is important to recognise that these core principles reflect deeply-held ideals shared by the ANU community, and if the Ramsay Centre agreement is perceived to compromise on these principles, it will be rejected by staff, students and other stakeholders, and could lead to significant anger, protest and division,” Mr King adds.
The Ramsay Centre plan is to teach up to 60 students in each academic year, using a “socratic approach” with 40 members of a class on $25 000 scholarships.