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.