Murdoch U drops demand against staffer – but the case is not closed

University management has dropped its claim for damages from whistleblowing staff member Gerd Schröder-Turk

Aspro Schröder-Turk appeared on ABC TV’s Four Corners in May, claiming the university was accepting low-academic quality international students. The university adamantly rejects this (CMM May 9) and demanded damages from him, for loss of reputation and student income.

Good, but not good enough for Schröder-Turk’s supporters, who also want the university to end its move to end his membership of senate, representing staff. Schröder-Turk has gone to court to stop this and the university is defending its action.

We still fundamentally disagree with Murdoch management about what is the real essence of this matter. This is about academic freedom – the right of a staff member to speak openly about issues and concerns about their institution without fear or favour,” National Tertiary Education Union general secretary Matthew McGowan says.

However, the university responds, “The university maintains that all members of Senate must uphold their duties. In doing so, there is a requirement as both a matter of law and a matter of principle that members of the Senate must at all times act in the best interests of the university and not use their position to cause detriment to the University.”

The dispute is listed for a Federal Court case management hearing on April 20.

Whatever the legal outcome, a decision by the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency will likely shape public opinion before the parties have their day in court.

Following the Four Corners’ episode, TEQSA asked Murdoch U for information on its admission and academic standards of international students, (CMM October 14). In December, it said it would conclude a compliance assessment of relevant Murdoch U performance in the first quarter, (CMM December 11). Word is agency staff will report to the TEQSA commissioners by mid-February.