There was a Dorothy Dixer in the Reps yesterday about ANU union and student opposition to the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, which is negotiating with the university to establish courses on campus, (CMM Tuesday). Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg fielded it, with a full-throated “what did the Romans ever do for us” response on why western civ is a good thing and a proper subject of study.
In the absence of a Senate Question Time, Education Minister Simon Birmingham bought into the argument on Radio 2GB. “The whole foundation of universities, academic freedom and academic integrity, has come largely out of the principles and development of western civilisation,” he said.
And he urged ANU, “to stand strong in the face of this union action, that they really ought to follow through on their convictions, which was to engage with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation. This is philanthropic money coming through to a university to extend the area of their study. They should grab it with both hands.”
This blue is very bad indeed for ANU VC Brian Schmidt. The many-million dollar Ramsay proposal is deeply unpopular with some on campus, but if the university ends negotiations he will cop a clobbering in politics and the press from commentators who think it should go ahead.
Want to know how deep blue it could get? Have a look at what happened when then UWA VC Paul Johnson wanted to accept funding for Bjorn Lomborg to set up a study centre there. In a big blow to his authority Professor Johnson ended up deferring to staff protests (CMM April 23 2015, and CMM May 11).