Ramsay degree debate back on at Uni Wollongong

Uni Wollongong’s Ramsay western civilisation degree denounced in  context of the Christchurch massacre and management responds

The University of Wollongong’s academic senate meets today and observers suggest critics will want to raise the way management adopted a degree funded by the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation.

Degree denounced as praising “western supremacism”: The meeting follows an open letter to Senate members yesterday by arts academic Anthony Ashbolt. Dr Ashbolt invites senate members to; “contemplate the damage this has already done to the image and reputation of the University of Wollongong. Moreover, in the light of recent tragic events involving a right-wing terrorist, I ask you to connect certain dots, to recognise the origins of an ideological discourse that seeks to defend western value systems against the onslaught of ‘political correctness’.

“When attacks like those in Christchurch are carried out in the name of western values, it really is time for universities to begin thinking critically about western civilisation, rather than resurrecting courses that are paeans of praise to discredited western supremacism.”

No connection with terror says dean: Yesterday Dean of Arts Theo Farrell responded to un-named “individuals,” who “have attempted to suggest that there is a connection between university education on Western thought, traditions, and culture, and acts of terror directed against people identified as somehow non-Western, non-European, or otherwise categorised in an exclusionary, essentialist way.”

“Whilst I can understand that, at first glance, such an argument may have emotional appeal for some people, a moment’s reflection reveals it to be fallacious,” Professor Farrell wrote in a message to staff.

“Our BA in Western Civilisation is precisely designed to challenge the kind of essentialist thinking that underpins exclusionary ideology, and it will explore how Western and non-Western thought, traditions and cultures have and can enter into dialogue, interact and beneficially influence one another over time.”

In December, the university described Professor Farrell as “leading UoWs engagement with the Ramsay Centre.”

What this could have to do with senateVice Chancellor Paul Wellings approved the degree in January independent of usual academic process, using a fast-track provision in the course approval rules (CMM February 13) However critics claim the Ramsay degree fails at clause 4.1.b which requires, “demonstrated benefit to the university in fast-tracking the proposal without compromising: the reputation of the university.”


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