James Cook University won a pyrrhic victory at the High Court today. By spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars (how many exactly?), all they have proven is that we can’t trust any research done by that university.
Even if the professors there are being sincere and honest, we will never know whether they are only telling us what their Vice Chancellor, Supreme Ruler Sandra Harding, wants them to say. The government should not be funding this sort of institution. It serves its administration, not the Australian taxpayer.
Two years ago, JCU had already spent $600,000 to make sure all their staff know they can’t criticize the uni.
Peter Ridd was JCU’s best asset until they sacked him. He helped expose manipulated photos of reef fish by a JCU researcher, Oona Lönnstedt, who had already been caught fabricating data in Sweden. Yet JCU “investigated” and sacked Ridd faster than it investigated her suspicious lionfish shots.
Every JCU employee’s work is tainted by this. We will never know what any JCU researcher really think, or which results were dropped in the bin, no matter what they say, because we know employees of JCU will be afraid to report bad behaviour, fraud, or sloppy work from other staff. Staff admitted they were too afraid to use their uni emails. Their quality assurance is terminally flawed. This makes the entire institution useless as a research body. JCU protects reputations, not the reef. The government could fix this entire embarrassing debacle in five minutes. They just need to withhold JCU funding ’til the uni gets new management and demonstrate that they support free speech.
VC Sandra Harding’s judgement is so poor that JCU’s reputation will not recover until she is replaced. She who
earnt was paid $975,000 in 2018 has done far more damage to the university’s reputation than anything Peter Ridd ever did or said. He was the one trying to maintain scientific standards and trying to protect the reef. Weak science, fraud, and false news hurt the environment because real problems get ignored while fashionable-but-fake-ones vacuum up the funds.
The Big Win was free speech laws a year ago
Despite the loss in the High Court today, let’s not forget that the judgement was about Peter Ridd’s original contract. The biggest win from his battle is that the government finally, belatedly, did something a year ago to define academic freedom. This decision doesn’t affect that, though academics, especially at JCU won’t feel inclined to test it. So JCU’s case and the High Court decision will help the cheats, frauds, and fashionable academics to relax.
October 2020: As Education Minister Dan Tehan told Sky News:
“[James Cook University] wouldn’t have been able to prosecute Peter Ridd if these laws had of been in place.”
“By defining academic freedom in legislation, Education Minister Dan Tehan is ensuring the dismissal of an academic like Peter Ridd can never happen again,” said Mr Rozner.
Academic freedom means the following:
(a) the freedom of academic staff to teach, discuss, and research and to disseminate and publish the results of their research;
(b) the freedom of academic staff and students to engage in intellectual inquiry, to express their opinions and beliefs, and to contribute to public debate, in relation to their subjects of study and research;
(c) the freedom of academic staff and students to express their opinions in relation to the higher education provider in which they work or are enrolled;
(d) the freedom of academic staff to participate in professional or representative academic bodies;
(e) the freedom of students to participate in student societies and associations;
(f) the autonomy of the higher education provider in relation to the choice of academic courses and offerings, the ways in which they are taught and the choices of research activities and the ways in which they are conducted.
Though was free speech enshrined in law, or did the Government just make it a “moral code”?
Jamie Walker, The Australian
The decision comes as every university in the country adopted a robust framework to protect freedom of speech among academics, ending a two-year Morrison government push to introduce a model code for the higher education sector.
As of this month, all 41 universities in Australia have either fully implemented the model code for academic free speech – designed by former chief justice Robert French in 2019 – or created pro-free speech policies that completely align with the code.
Professor Ridd was sacked by James Cook University for criticism of colleagues and their research into climate change and the Great Barrier Reef.
Education Minister Alan Tudge – who previously threatened to make the model code law if universities did not implement it – said on Tuesday the successful implementation of the code would help to ensure opposing viewpoints flourish on campus.
“If universities are not places for free, robust speech, then their very purpose is jeopardised. You cannot advance knowledge without challenging existing orthodoxies, and risk causing offence in the process,” Mr Tudge said.
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October 13, 2021 at 12:54AM