Justinian the Great: Victory for Academic Freedom Will Sadly Be Short Lived

Peter Ridd’s victory over James Cook University was great personal victory but sadly it will not usher in a new era of academic freedom and debate.

We can see that already from the response by the university. Far from showing any contrition it instead challenged the judgment signalling a likely appeal.

Rather than accept the judge’s reasoning on academic freedom one suspects most universities will be running to their legal teams in order to double down on their Enterprise Agreements and redefine all clauses pertaining to academic freedom to ensure any future “Ridd” cases cannot happen again.

That will be the short-term solution nipping free thinkers in the bud. Longer term natural attrition will take care of the problem. The sad reality is that there are few Peter Ridd’s left in Australian universities with most dissenters or conservatives having been purged in the long march through our academic institutions.

Ridd is typical of most scientists that break ranks with the climate establishment. They tend to be older professionals, tenured and close to retirement meaning they don’t have as much to lose by speaking out.

Importantly, they were appointed and received tenure in very different times. When Peter Ridd retires (assuming he is reinstated) his vacancy will not be filled by someone with published science casting doubt on the groupthink that climate change is destroying The Great Barrier Reef. His position will be filled by a conformist and true believer.

Over time natural attrition will solve the Ridd problem for Australian universities. The Coalition has been asleep at the wheel as institution after institution fell into progressive hands. Even when it was half awake to the problem it was too scared to do anything. Three to six years of a Shorten government and the problem of academic freedom will be solved. Everyone will be of like mind with academic debate reduced to heated agreement. Baa baa baa.

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23 Responses to Justinian the Great: Victory for Academic Freedom Will Sadly Be Short Lived

  1. Rex Mango

    The coalition is so asleep at the wheel that the infantry was feminised on their watch.

  2. Bruce of Newcastle

    Prospective students look up unis before choosing a degree.
    The more bad behaviour that a uni is caught doing the fewer good students they will get.
    I got another begging letter and a chintzy magazine from UniSyd this week.
    The bad press over their persecution of righties will be hurting them in the rankings.
    Good.
    Both went straight into the garbage bin.

  3. Tezza

    A future conservative government, if there is ever such a thing again, should just do a Trump on linking taxpayer funding to acceptable freedom of speech and scientific method charters and performance. It would start by making a small pro-rata reduction in funding of all universities, to fund an annual review of performance of each university against best practice principles.

    Rather than creating a new permanent body for such annual reviews, the government could seek competitive tenders for evaluators to do the job, or explore new governance arrangements to ensure the review agency is not captured. There are all sorts of models that could be used. One surprisingly interesting governance model is the World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group.

  4. Suburban Boy

    You may well be right, but in the short term there are some reasons for hope.

    Firstly, assuming JCU appeals the Federal Circuit Court’s decision, it will result in the further airing of issues of academic freedom, which can’t be good for the uni totalitarians.

    Secondly, the tertiary staff union expressed support for Ridd, and implicitly for the academic freedom provision in the EA. Presumably JCU’s administrators and other like scum won’t simply be able to remove that provision without some resistance from the union.

    But sadly, your suggestion about the fate of academic freedom under a Shorten government seems all too credible. Let’s hope he never gets his grubby little hands on it.

  5. stevem

    Unfortunately Ridd’s (just) victory is being cited by another “academic” in his unjust dismissal case. For some reason Tim Anderson believes he was unjustly dismissed despite year after year of warnings. In his mind displaying an Israeli flag superimposed with a swastika is perfectly reasoned class material, as is his loyal support of the Kim dynasty.

  6. bespoke

    Study online to avoid the rubbish the move over sees.

  7. NB

    Lol. So little credibility. So many emerging options. Who cares. Intelligent life continues.
    Universities are on the long march to oblivion.

  8. Boambee John

    Lysenkoism returns!

  9. John A

    I hope that the appeal goes to the High Court and the Uni gets right royally flattened.

  10. Des Deskperson

    ‘Rather than accept the judge’s reasoning on academic freedom one suspects most universities will be running to their legal teams in order to double down on their Enterprise Agreements and redefine all clauses pertaining to academic freedom to ensure any future “Ridd” cases cannot happen again.’

    But an enterprise agreement is a agreement between management and employees and their representatives and certified by the Fair Work Commission. It can’t be unilaterally changed by management.

    Any new management-proposed restrictions on academic freedom would have to be agreed by employees and, if it is also a signature party, their union which as Suburban Boy has pointed out, has expressed support for Ridd’s position. the FWC Commissioners, not all of whom ALP running dogs, may also have views about clauses that curb employee rights.

    Some or even many JCU academics may dislike Ridd and his views, but they would have to be extremely stupid to vote for EA amendments that curbed their own freedoms, just to get at Ridd and his kind.

  11. Squirrel

    Given the current fondness for demanding a Royal Commission into anything which doesn’t seem quite as it should be, perhaps we should have one into tertiary education – not just into “academic freedom”, but also into matters such as why it is we need to run a massive immigration program to fill “skills shortages” at the same time as we are pumping ever increasing funding into the tertiary sector.

  12. Iampeter

    Suing someone for firing you or forcing someone to employ you, is a violation of academic freedom. It’s also a violation of free speech, freedom of association, property rights and individual rights in general.
    Celebrating this law suit is the same total confusion as demonstrated when suggesting tech companies are “censoring.”
    Now, getting free speech and censorship literally backwards is not something you would think should be possible, but here we are.
    Conservatives don’t seem to know anything about politics.

  13. mem

    Iampeter
    #2996459, posted on April 24, 2019 at 6:16 pm
    “Suing someone for firing you or forcing someone to employ you, is a violation of academic freedom. It’s also a violation of free speech, freedom of association, property rights and individual rights in general.”
    As Pauline would ask, please explain? You make no sense to me at all.

  14. Mem

    Iampeter makes no sense because, as always, Heisconfused.

    Whilst this case is presented as a freedom of speech/academic freedom issue, it is no more complicated than a breech of contract. It is just that the contract had an academic freedom clause.

    As Des Deskperson simply described, there was an academic freedom provision of the enterprise agreement which the university unilaterally changed – and a contract can’t be changed unless both parties agreed (or if one party permits the other to change at will which was not the case here). Worse, the enterprise agreement was endorsed by the FWC and any subsequent changes needed to be endorsed by the FWC – and they weren’t.

    Heisconfused should read Des’ comments. Twice if necessary. Slowly if required. Perhaps also with his Right wing, or is that right angle, hat.

    It is rather ironic also that Heisconfused, who is always confident and usually wrong, does not support his academic peers – peers either professionally or spiritually.

  15. Rabid Koala

    The Coalition has been asleep at the wheel as institution after institution fell into progressive hands

    Implying those who control the Coalition do not support the progressive destruction of Australia

  16. Iampeter

    As Pauline would ask, please explain? You make no sense to me at all.

    Well, if you support forcing someone to employ you, who doesn’t want to, because they disagree with you politically, then you’ve violated their free speech, academic freedom, freedom of association, etc, etc…
    On the other hand, firing someone is not a violation of any kind. We might disagree with that firing as we do in this case, but no one has a right to a job.

    Iampeter makes no sense because, as always, Heisconfused.

    He says, only to then demonstrate no understanding of contracts, enterprise agreements, breach of contracts, individual rights, academic freedom or this case specifically.

    Seriously spartacus, as someone who listens to as many podcasts as you do, while riding you’re two wheeled stallion (MANY podcasts, apparently) I can’t imagine how you can get so much, so wrong and then project onto me your own failings. E.g. confident but usually wrong.

    You should be posting what I posted.

    Bottom line, if you think my post was confused then you’re a politically illiterate leftist. Nothing more.
    Why are you blogging on a libertarian, centre-right blog?

  17. He says, only to then demonstrate no understanding of contracts, enterprise agreements, breach of contracts, individual rights, academic freedom or this case specifically.

    Oh Heisconfused. Font of all right angles. Do tell and demonstrate YOUR understanding of contracts, enterprise agreements, breach of contracts, individual rights, academic freedom or this case specifically.

    Go through your mandatory front end slang and then don’t respond and signal your virtue.

  18. James Hargrave

    C. Brandist, in ‘A very Stalinist management model’ (THES, 29 May 2014), noted that academics in the UK, unlike those in the Soviet Union of the 1930s, do not face routine censorship and repression for voicing critical views, but he had a story to tell after he had expressed doubts. Days later, he received a formal letter from ‘Human Resources’ suggesting that he desist from publishing such material and instead raise concerns internally. (‘The irony was evidently lost on HR, but these people generally don’t do irony.’) It took months of struggle to ensure that no action would be taken against him. When the vice-chancellor learned what had happened, he apologised, but, as Brandist remarked, ‘it is far from certain that all vice-chancellors would have taken this view’. Quite so.

    Thus, quite broadly, it is the appalling employment practices of universities and their application by the ‘enforcers’ from ‘Human Resources’ (itself an indication of how these people relate to the rest of humanity) that are the problem. Denizens of the HR behemoth seem to roam the campus shouting ‘you will obey’ like deranged Daleks, totalling lacking in self-awareness though smugly self-absorbed: they are the very model of a modern mediocre graduate.

  19. Iampeter

    Do tell and demonstrate YOUR understanding of contracts, enterprise agreements, breach of contracts, individual rights, academic freedom or this case specifically.

    I did. In two posts already. The one you responded to originally #2996459, already explained everything and shouldn’t require any follow up on a libertarian centre-right blog. You should be posting what I said.

    If any of it is still confusing, then YOU need to explain where your actual confusion is, not try to mock me and avoid getting pinned down in anything specific, because you’re too dishonest to concede you have no clue.

  20. This is a nonsense Peter.

    You cannot have contracts as they should be.

    You cannot even have independent contractors doing their work as they please in Australia.

    The only moral alternative is to emigrate and become skilled in another specialisation.

    There is nothing wrong with being a university professor as a profession. It is public ownership that is incorrect. The uni is bound to its own rules.

    Arguing that the university has a right to hire and fire but at the same time can break its code of conduct and contractual promises is a complete nonsense.

    What you have to do is show what Ridd ought to have done, because your ideas may be sound but your complaining is simply asking for absurd and unreasonable behaviour of Ridd as an extreme model litigant.

  21. Iampeter

    I’m really not sure what part of this anyone isn’t getting. Let me take away all the abstractions and eliminate the need for any real thinking or joining of dots and see if it helps:
    Do you agree, for example, if the The Australian Conservative Party decided to fire someone because he is an environmentalist, their doing so would never constitute a breach of free speech or “academic freedom” or any other freedom? Do you agree that no one has a right to a job?
    On the other hand, if the environmentalist decided to bring a right-to-work type of leftist lawsuit, trying to force the Conservatives to employ him, then that would indeed be a breach of all sorts of rights. Do you agree with this?
    If no, then you are a leftist and I understand where you’re coming from, but can’t imagine what you and all your friends are doing on a right wing blog.
    If yes, then see if you can apply the same principles to the Peter Ridd lawsuit and finally understand what I’ve been saying all along.

  22. 2dogs

    Do you agree, for example, if the The Australian Conservative Party decided to fire someone because he is an environmentalist, their doing so would never constitute a breach of free speech or “academic freedom” or any other freedom?

    This would depend on the specific employment contract, and what exactly him being an environmentalist entailed here. It would violate his freedoms if it only entailed his own private conscience and the way he voted. If it got into further things like public action that were prohibited by his contract then the firing is acceptable.

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