In response to the University’s negotiations with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, angry students and staff have called a public forum to discuss the way forward for a campaign against it.
The Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation was created in 2017 with part of a $3 billion bequest from health care magnate Paul Ramsay. University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor Mike Spence has announced that the university is in negotiations with the Ramsay Centre over the funding of educational offerings in “Western Civilisation.”
Students and staff, including Education Officer Lily Campbell are concerned that the Ramsay Centre “poses a serious threat to academic freedom and embodies a deepening of racist rhetoric in society.”
This view has been emboldened by recent media coverage of the centre, particularly Tony Abbott’s comments to right-wing journal Quadrant that that the degree isn’t just “about Western civilisation, but in favour of it.”
Beyond the concerns about the content of the degree, the National Tertiary Education Union has raised concerns about academic freedom in response to Ramsay Centre CEO’s suggestion that “We would not be willing to hire somebody who is coming in with a long liturgy of what terrible damage Western Civilisation had done to the world.” Reports from negotiations at ANU that the Centre wanted to sit in on classes, monitor content, and have the right to veto curriculum decisions by academics are also of great concern. NTEU Branch President Kurt Iveson said “Our University’s autonomy to control the way we teach ‘western civilisation’ (or any other topic) is exactly the ‘problem’ that the Ramsay Centre is trying to ‘fix’. This is an ideological project which we ought to oppose.”
A public forum, to be held at the University’s Carslaw Lecture Theatre 175 on Wednesday 8 August, will feature prominent academic Raewyn Connell. Connell is Emeritus Professor at the University of Sydney, and her works on sex and gender, southern theory and higher education have received international acclaim.
Imogen Grant, USyd SRC President