ANU VC Brian Schmidt’s Friday goodnewsgram mentioned “various media reports” (who, CMM?) “relating to partnerships and philanthropy in the university sector”. In ANU’s case he must have meant the proposal for the Ramsay western civilisation study centre to fund courses and scholarships at ANU.
There are staff and students at ANU who do not like this proposal at all but government ministers, notably Simon Birmingham and Josh Frydenberg think it is a splendid idea. Whether or no ANU accepts the centre and the many millions it will bring, vocal people will be upset.
So, Professor Schmidt is getting his ducks in a row, with an all-purpose statement covering whatever the university decides.
“ANU approaches any partnership or funding opportunity with the same core set of principles. These include retaining, without compromise, our academic integrity, autonomy and freedom, and ensuring that any program has academic merit consistent with our status as one of the world’s great universities,” he wrote Friday.
Smart stuff moving the argument away from the issue both sides want to debate – whether or not the Ramsay Centre’s take on western civilisation is a suitable subject for study. If ANU embraces Ramsay it is because it meets standards and if it doesn’t, it is because Ramsay does not measure up.
Last week the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union weighed in to the debate, calling on Professor Schmidt 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,” (CMM May 23 ). On Saturday, the union supported the vice chancellor’s statement, saying it “welcomes the strong leadership and commitment to core academic principles given by Brian Schmidt in response to NTEU concerns about the proposed Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation. “