The Ramsay Centre is frightened of academic freedom

I just signed a petition opposing any agreement between the Ramsay Centre and the University of Queensland, where I work. I am disappointed that things have reached this point. The areas of the humanities that Ramsay would support have long been underfunded: they don’t fit into either the market-driven ideology of “reform”, or the more recent technocratic push for STEM.

The problem is that, quite evidently, the Ramsay Centre wants to control who teaches the courses and how they are taught. Tony Abbott let the cat out of the bag a while ago when he said the courses would be “not just about Western Civilization, but for it”, and made it clear that his version of Western Civilization is one that would have seemed hopelessly reactionary by the 19th Century.

Abbott has kept quiet since then, but he is still on the board. The demands made to universities for a role in appointments and for Ramsay to appoint inspectors who would monitor teaching make it clear that his stated position was representative.

The disappointing thing is that they need not have bothered. The kinds of academics and students who would teach and sign up for classical and medieval courses are unlikely to be eager followers of the latest developments in critical Theory. And if Abbott and the rest had any faith in the merits of their literary and intellectual position, they ought to expect a neutral presentation of the works in question to carry the day.

It’s such a lot of money, for such an underfunded area, that I hope Ramsay finds someone to take it, even if they have to go to one of the Catholic institutions or start up their own. But any university that pretends to value academic freedom should reject this Greek gift*

Update: Just after posting this, I read that, only yesterday, the Ramsay Centre agreed to include a commitment to the principles of academic freedom in its MOU with Wollongong. Readers can judge whether this belated move, after months of resistance, represents a change of views or a piece of lip-service.

  • My little nod to classical learning.

18 thoughts on “The Ramsay Centre is frightened of academic freedom

  1. I thought they’d already agreed a deal to have their Centre at the University of Wollongong.

    Anyways, if I was teaching in their Western Civilization degree, I would teach a subject where students read great books. It would include Descartes’ Meditations, Spinoza’s Tractatus, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Locke’s Essay on Human Understanding, Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and Mill’s Principles of Political Economy.

    All of these books are classics of the western canon and are indispensable to understanding and appreciating western civilization.

    And, they were all on the Catholic Church’s Index of Banned Books.

    Eat that , Tony Abbott.

  2. It takes two minutes worth of googling to see that our universities accept funding from the Islamic Republic of Iran and a variety of other dubious sources.

    I have not seen the UQ MOU but the Ramsay Centre’s MOU with UOW is on the web and is innocuous and the uni does not cede any control over curriculum, staffing etc…


    If it turns out that the Ramsay Centre programs pump out reactionary gibberish on the superiority of Western Christendom etc then it can be closed down in the notice period stipulated in the agreement.

    Of course, in an ideal world, unis would be 100% government funded but as that isn’t the case I don’t see a problem with accepting money from anyone provided they don’t get to control curricula and staffing.

  3. Classical and medieval scholars found elements of post-modern theory very useful in, for instance, bringing a different perspective to bear on texts (a perspective that allowed, for instance, a good deal of useful material to be extracted from early medieval hagiography). But I doubt the application is obvious enough to attract the ire of the Ramsay Foundation.

  4. How do you get DGR status if the ATO doesn’t approve?

    Hugo: may I send someone over to read over your shoulder?

    Jack – and brutus? And…

    JQ. Are we able to sign? Or at least a link or text please.

    I’d fund civilisation. If I managed to build 3.4b and didn’t pay much tax.

    DGR states ” the following charitable purposes in Australia: advancing health, advancing education and advancing social or public welfare”… see below.

    First foray due to stigma, prejudice and lack of funding from government and I suppose, good for him? ” 1964, Ramsay founded one of the first private psychiatric hospitals in Sydney.[3][4][5] It evolved into Ramsay Health Care, a private hospital company of which he was chairman of the board…”

    Ramsay Centre plus…
    …” The balance of Ramsay’s estate was donated to the separately administered Paul Ramsay Foundation which seeks to address disadvantage in health and education”
    … ”

    Who pays what? ATO names large companies that paid zero tax in 2014-15

    Total Income: $4,061,264,373
    Taxable Income: $496,505,526
    Tax payable: $147,397,938
    Tax payable as % of Total:4%
    Tax payable as % of Taxable income: 30%

    Total Income: $481,653,549
    Taxable Income: $78,617,236
    Tax payable: –
    Tax payable as % of Total income: –
    Tax payable as % of Taxable income: –

    Seven: nothing on $3.5Bn
    Treasury Laws Amendment (2018 Measures No. 5) Bill 2018
    “Where an organisation does not fall within the general categories provided for in the ITAA 1997, the ATO is unable to approve the entity as a DGR. Accordingly, a legislative amendment to the ITAA 1997 is required in order to specifically list those organisations as DGRs.”
    “Paul Ramsay Foundation Limited—a registered charity established to be the recipient of the Ramsay bequest from the Paul Ramsay Foundation to pursue one or more of the following charitable purposes in Australia: advancing health, advancing education and advancing social or public welfare:”

  5. “@Hugo I don’t see a problem with accepting money from anyone provided they don’t get to control curricula and staffing.”

    Agreed, which is why there is a problem with Ramsay. They want representatives on appointment committees and (as noted in the OP) supervisors of teaching. Maybe you should read a bit more carefully before ranting

  6. “Agreed, which is why there is a problem with Ramsay. They want representatives on appointment committees and (as noted in the OP) supervisors of teaching.”

    All that time Abbott spent in student politics taught him about The Long March Through the Institutions.

  7. Ranting? Chill out, Prof. UOW has the power to veto the Ramsay Centres staff selection nominees and has a couple places on the scholarship selection committee. I see no reason to not support a trial run.

    You should be more worried about Chinese intimidation, influence and manipulation and less worried about Mr Rabbott and co. in my humble ranty opinion.

  8. Lets hope who ever does run this course does it properly. Western civilization began in piracy and invasion. The ancient Egyptians called then “the boat people”. Then the invaders of the first peoples of Greece invaded Troy. Then The Celtic invasions began. Then the Germanic invasions began. By the time a form of what we would call ‘Europe’ was formed: Africa was invaded. Then European powers began colonizing the Americas, Asia and Oceania. But only after they had raped and pillaged their way through the Middle East. This eastward invasion came to a crushing end when they ran into the Mongols. Now Europe had a taste of their own medicine.
    So if its Western civilization that is being touted as exemplary lets have it spelt out warts and all. The genocide of first peoples across the world needs to be addressed. Plus lets not forget the cultural rape of centuries old civilizations.
    As for the English. They started in slavery to the Romans then were beaten up by the Vikings then became pirates under the Tudors. But only after being conquered by the Normans. So any moral superiority seems to be transitory at best.
    Good luck teaching those facts when those who fund the course do not even know their own history.

  9. smith9?

    don’t forget John Dos Passos.

    and Greg?

    EveryThing started by theft (god said we could) piracy and invasion (and PR).

    sheesh, the entire Mediterranean area, north of, west of and south of is a wrecking yard of wasted public funds.
    of course they didn’t put it that way.
    scribble, scribble, scribble Mr Gibbon.

  10. No doubt Abbott et al. do indeed think that the cold light of reason would valorize our noble western heritage over the paltry efforts of the hottentots, lapplanders, nipponese etc. But of course universities are overrun by cultural marxists and radical gender theorists pursuing their own sinister social engineering agenda. You can’t trust those people!

  11. @Jones “But of course universities are overrun by cultural marxists and radical gender theorists pursuing their own sinister social engineering agenda. ”

    Your comment above is very strange and incorrect. Universities are run largely as businesses these days by the menagement. The universities however exist because of the academics (maybe some marxist, I definitely hope so, as thinking to me is essential in not being taken advantage of, for example, by those in charge) and definitely not because of the management. The academics are the ones who do the work, and the menagement people are effectively ‘sales’ staff. The calture of greed of this menagement (overcompensated for the somewhat parasitic nature of their work in my opinion) reflects that found in other simlar settings in our society (eg financial).

    Singling out ‘Western civilization’ would not be a problem if not for all the negative connotations and associations that this ‘singling out’ brings to mind immediately, due to those who have spoken about it only to proclaim their own superiority (for various political reasons for example); the exlusivity and ownership they claim to it (none of these politicians has produced any significant or positive work to add to that of those great minds of the western civilisation who did ‘good’, another parasitic relationship); the monoply and control on its teaching they would like to enforce . (They should listen to the academics, not tell us what the academics should think. Or should we have a dictatorship with them in charge?)

    What do these people fear? Do they have the same fear and belief about who runs the universities as quoted above? Do they simply want to point out to their own superiority? Is this because of the realisation that they are in fact not superior and that times are changing, as is their place in the world.

  12. What gives these men (Ramsay C supporters) the right to proclaim themselves the defenders and keepers of Western Civilization values? They have no right to do so any more than anyone else. After all there is nothing special about these men (Tony Abbott for example), if not that they were maybe born here. But then many others have been born here. And if this is not enough are they suggesting that we all be geneticly tested to determine our exact paternity and more importantly our ancestry.

    Instead of sowing discord, and attracting supporters with limited analysis skills, they should stay at home, support their wives and pass their values (if any) to their own grandchildren, instead of attempting to brainwash the week.

  13. What do these people fear?

    Being shown to be wrong, mostly.

    The grim reality is, there are some nasty pockets of emotional abuse in upper/middle class circles that nobody will do anything about. Admissions of error being used as a sign of weakness and as a pretext/opportunity for harrassing abuse, sort of thing. “You gotta show confidence, child!!” shit; if “love” is conditioned on success [defined by authority-figure], and success includes correctness, then to admit error becomes a huge psychic strain and essentially impossible until the original error is far enough that it can be admitted as not reflecting on the here-and-now. No physical violence, but that’s not really a thing that makes a difference.

    And thus onto the next generation. In poor-people schools they usually look out for this and — at the least — give the students better tools to handle it before they crack, but an involved abusive parent with social capital can get away with an awful lot of shit, not least if they’re paying lotsamoney to a school to look away from this sorta thing.

    I mean, NotAllRichPeople. Not even NotAllPrivateSchools… but it’s a problem. Honestly it’s a bigger problem than emotional abuse in low socioeconomic communities, which is rapidly becoming a solved problem [mental-health and abuse-spotting tools can be passed person-to-person and lets you build herd immunity to abuse, is the thing. I mean, it’s not like diseases in that this thing can spontaneously arise… but it keeps it manageable]

    [why do you think the LNP were opposed to the childhood mental-health scheme? The fix is probably to replace the school chaplaincy program with a secular school counsellor independent from school oversight, which is again why they’re so insistent on school chaplains being religious [==aligned with school management]]

  14. Collin Street,
    Thank you for your answer. As someone who came into the country in their 20s I have found some of the observed behaviours very strange. So your answer clarifies some things.

    I remember being absolutely shocked seeing Aus TV for the first time, in particular seeing and hearing John Howard. I could not believe that a politician would/could afford to talk in such an unprofessional, patronising, condescending, arrogant, agressive, self-serving way (complete lack of humility/concern for the needy, disintrested analysis or analysis, complete refusal to engage in anything vaguely intellectual), with everyone taking this as normal.
    My prior experience was that a politician would at least do the lip service to what is right and fair.
    Even worse than this, the academics are very rearly seen on TV, and the religious leaders don’t seem to be on the side of the poor (if they are, they certainly get no screen time to explain why we all should; charity being run as a commercial activity).

  15. Actually, I just finished a history of technology course offered by my history department, where the course included race and gender analysis and the students were happy to waste tutorial time on those topics.

    Critical theory nonsense really is everywhere. *

    *As a fan of Foucault who is well versed in social constructionism, i can rightly call today’s CT nonsense.

  16. PS there’s nothing remotely Marxist in the universities today. It’s all bourgeois, just a new leftist paternalistic bourgeois.

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