Court finds for COVID vaccine critic disciplined by Western Sydney U  

The university’s act includes a “bulwark of academic freedom”

Western Sydney U  stopped nursing student Nera Thiab from undertaking placement necessary to complete her degree because she, “expressed scepticism about the safety of the vaccines which were available at the time.”

The university also held a disciplinary hearing which required her to apologise and write a 1500 word “appreciation” of why her conduct breached professional obligations.

Ms Thiab took the matter to court, arguing Section 35 of WSU’s act of parliament, forbids discriminating against a student for religious/political views or beliefs.

In the Supreme Court of NSW Justice Parker found

“the opposition to vaccination may be based on genuinely held political beliefs. The cogency of such beliefs, and how widely they are shared, are beside the point. Nor should this be surprising in the field of public health. Public health is a social science. It often requires that a balance be struck between people’s individual freedoms and the desirability of government action being taken in the collective interest to restrict the spread of disease. Inevitably that may be politically controversial.”

However, he added “nothing in my decision prevents the university from making genuine academic judgments about the quality of its students’ coursework. Creationists who answer questions in a palaeontology exam by quoting the Bible will not be able to complain if the university declines to award them degrees.”

Nor did his decision, “necessarily prevent the university from action because of clinical or other professional misconduct by its students,” which if such arose, could have been dealt with “in a clinical setting.”

“ if in the end there is a need for the university to take disciplinary action against its students, based on their conduct and not their beliefs, the university may do so.”

But he also pointed to the importance of Section 35, “in a university context, freedom of thought has a public dimension. Universities exist to advance human knowledge and understanding. The theory behind s35 is that this is an objective process and the personal beliefs, whether religious or political, of those involved, are, or should be, irrelevant. Section 35 can thus be seen as a bulwark of academic freedom.”