Another attack on academic freedom
James Farrell advises me that Professor Tom Valentine has been dismissed from the University of Western Sydney for “misconduct”, which apparently consists of criticising the (mis)management of the University in relation to matters such as the creation of a new medical school.
I’ve rarely agreed with Valentine about anything, but I’m unreservedly opposed to the University’s action in this matter. Obviously, it violates everything a university is supposed to stand for. Unfortunately, that consideration doesn’t weigh much with the managerialist hacks who’ve been pushed into positions of power by the reforms of the past 15 years.
A more general problem is that, with the scrapping of the collegial role of faculties and academic boards, universities have some of the least accountable governance structures of any institutions in Australia. There are no shareholders as there would be in a private company. The universities derive most of their funding from the Commonwealth but operate under state acts of Parliament. Although DEST imposes all manner of burdensome reporting requirements, it lacks any effective power to constrain rogue vice-chancellors, of whom we have seen quite a few. On the other hand, state governments have the legal responsibility and power, but no budgetary control or interest.
For an institution so unaccountable to victimise and suppress internal critics and whistleblowers is deeply concerning. This affair should be investigated by ICAC.
fn1. I’ve had several disputes with Valentine over a variety of issues, but I’d be the last to deny that he has played a significant role in Australian economics, notably in his work with the Campbell Committee.