Latest on ANU

I wonder if PvO actually reads the Australian’s op-ed page? Today he has a piece that opens:

It’s hardly surprising that ANU isn’t bothering to respond in detail to all the ongoing complaints from the Ramsay Centre and others that it cancelled plans for a degree in western civilisation.

Just two days ago there was a joint op-ed from the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor in the Australian.  To be fair, it is very likely that neither the Chancellor nor the Vice-Chancellor actually wrote the op-ed but nonetheless it was a fairly detailed response to the on-going kerfuffle.

Today the academic head of the Ransay Centre responded with his own op-ed.

Now despite both sides insisting that the “door remains open” I suspect that when you have had such a public airing of irreconcilable differences that while the door may be open nobody will be darkening the doorstep.

The challenge is that both op-eds set out versions of events that sound plausible and reasonable. But the Ramsay Foundation op-ed also tells us about expressions of interests (EOI).

The name for the degree proposed by the ANU in its original EOI last November was bachelor of Western civilisation. Ramsay accepted this. ANU did not raise this again until months later. 

Regarding the curriculum, at the first meeting between ANU and the centre in January we raised the possibility of the university developing a text-focused “great books” curriculum, along the lines of the indicative — not prescriptive — curriculums available to view on our website and suggested in our EOI invitation. 

So the Ramsay Centre had made it clear what it was they were looking for when they put out an invitation for expressions of interest and the ANU responded to that expressions suggesting the name of the degree?

Perhaps the Ramsay Centre should publish ANUs EOI. This is beginning to sound like a bait and switch tactic.

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15 Responses to Latest on ANU

  1. Roger

    Forget it. Move on. Ramsay should establish their own institution of higher learning and link with like minded institutions overseas.

  2. Chris

    Forget it. Move on. Ramsay should establish their own institution of higher learning and link with like minded institutions overseas.

    Yes. And they should also accredit online learning that cannibalises the sandstones’ market at far lower cost, and find ways to give value add that reduces the waste of potentially productive life years in higher ed.

  3. pbw

    Roger Scruton, in The End of the University, actually describes the beginning. He helped the Czechs set up a university at the cost of smuggled texts, photocopiers, and the risk of imprisonment.

  4. OldOzzie

    The Australian Editorial does sum it up

    Reasons for ANU rejecting Ramsay do not stack up

    As chancellor and vice-chancellor, respectively, of the Australian National University, Gareth Evans and Brian Schmidt know the value of primary sources. Yet they have not produced the draft memorandum they cited in their article on Tuesday that sought to explain why ANU ultimately rejected the opportunity to establish a degree program funded by the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation. The article complained that the centre wanted “a controlling influence” rather than “only a voice” in staff appointments and curriculum design.

    Today, Ramsay Centre chief executive Simon Haines rebuts the points made by Mr Evans and Professor Schmidt. The centre, Professor Haines insists, “never sought a controlling influence or veto in curriculum design and staff appointments”. For more than a month, throughout May and into June, ANU posted a list of frequently asked questions on its website. This, as Professor Haines notes, confirmed that the partnership management committee would comprise four members, two from the Ramsay Centre and two from the university. The centre would be represented on a university selection committee, the body making decisions about staff hiring. That committee would have a majority of ANU representatives and be chaired by the dean of the college of arts and social sciences, leaving final control entirely with the university. Professor Haines poses a very reasonable question: “If this was so far beyond what ANU was willing to accept, why would it post the details on its website until a week after it withdrew from the talks?”

    The draft MOU should be released to clarify the details of the negotiations. In his letter to the editor yesterday, Ramsay Centre board member Tony Abbott cited two clauses, 15 and 25, from a document on ANU letterhead that support Professor Haines’s case. As Mr Abbott wrote: “How can the university leadership now describe this as an ‘extraordinarily prescriptive micro-management approach’ when — prior to taking fright — this is what had been agreed?”

    Mr Evans and Professor Schmidt admit they “would deserve all the criticism hurled at us” if they had withdrawn because some within ANU ranks — the academic and student unions — were uncomfortable, for ideological reasons, with the idea of the project. In the absence of definitive evidence to the contrary, this impression continues to linger.

    The sad irony is that the ANU’s leadership and the Ramsay Centre agree on the bigger issue. “There was, and remains, strong support across the university for a major enhancement of our teaching and research capacity in the area of Western civilisation studies,” Mr Evans and Professor Schmidt wrote. “The attractiveness of having major new resources to ­advance them is why an enormous amount of effort has been invested by our staff in developing a ­detailed proposal, including a draft syllabus, in support of a Ramsay gift, and why negotiations for common ground continued as long as they did.”

    ANU and the Ramsay Centre insist their doors remain open to each other. But trust and goodwill have been undermined, at vast loss to future students and academic rigour.

  5. Siltstone

    Agree with comments above. Even if an agreement was reached with ANU or any other Australian university, in a few short years the university would ensure the centte was just another echo chamber for post-modernists and Marxist. Paul Collits has an alternative pathway outlined in Quadrant Online, 25 June.

  6. Slayer of Memes

    Petey van Oscillate is noted as a ‘contributing editor’ for the Australian op-ed page….

    Petey doesn’t actually read the Australian op-ed page before he writes his ‘contributions’…

    Petey wonders why people think he is a dill….

  7. Tezza

    As OldOzzie notes, the Australian editorial skewers Schmidt and Evans. I have asked the ANU to remove my name from its fundraising and alumni mailing lists.

  8. dauf

    why not take their money and find a decent and balanced university…can’t they find one?
    Or would it just be unacceptable to not be in the Canberra/Sydney Nexus?

  9. H B Bear

    Biggles telling porkies again?

  10. Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    All you need to do is attach ‘S’ for School, to the end of A.N.U., for an accurate acronym. Enough said.

  11. James Hargrave

    Write your own: heaven no. I am sure that the ANU’s Kremlin is teaming with speech writers, hair dressers, manicurists, pedicurists, food tasters, probably not a court jester, but definitely several grooms of the stole to handle all the sxxt coming out of the [thank you Nicholas Gray]…

  12. James Hargrave


    I asked mine to stop bothering me 20 years ago when, unwisely, it reversed its policy of the previous 30 years or so and gave an hon. degree to an active politician. ‘But everyone loves M’ [a graduate of the place]. Well no. We too wish to leave money for educational purposes, but not directly to a university because whatever conditions are attached, somehow they won’t be attached for long.

  13. Rex R

    This whole Ramsay centre debate is such a complete yawn. Its surely only of interest to culture warriors with too much free time on their hands.

  14. OldOzzie

    Western civilisation offered at ANU but not as Ramsay knows it

    Rebecca Urban

    The Australian National University says it teaches more than 150 subjects dealing themes around Western civilisation, but the offering bears little resemblance to the “great books” course the Ramsay Centre sought to establish in partnership with the ­institution.

    The Canberra-based university offers an extensive array of core subjects in the history of Western civilisation, spanning ancient Greece and Rome, medieval history, the Enlightenment through to the Cold War.

    However, subjects are framed through perspectives of class, race, gender and associated cultural theories.

    ANU Chancellor Gareth Evans and Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt this week moved to deflect criticism of their decision to withdraw from talks with the Ramsay Centre, highlighting the university’s strong commitment to the topic.

    “ANU has long been ranked No 1 in Australia in humanities disciplines, and we already teach some 150 undergraduate subjects addressing Western civilisation themes,” the pair wrote in an opinion article on Tuesday.

    However, the list of subjects available to students — in disciplines including history, classical studies, literature, languages and philosophy and provided by ANU at the request of The Australian — differs greatly from the course proposed by the Ramsay Centre.

    The philanthropic group, chaired by former prime minister John Howard and established with a bequest from the estate of the late healthcare mogul Paul Ramsay, had offered to finance a degree that would focus on the seminal texts of the Western tradition, including those of Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero and Dante.

    Such “great books” courses are offered at some of the US’s most prestige liberal arts colleges — such as Columbia in New York, and St John’s College in Annapolis — where students are encouraged to approach a text from the perspective of the author and with an open, inquiring mind and collegiate debate is a feature of small, tutorial-style classes.

    In contrast, in many of the Western civilisation courses available at ANU focus on exploring themes of racism, slavery, genocide, minorities and sexism.

    The ANU School of History offers the subject Among Real Men: Masculinities in Western History, which explores “what makes a real man?” and why “notions of manliness have shifted in the context of revolution, war, exploration, imperialism and anti-colonialism”.

    The course Language Power and Identity, under the banner of the School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics, focuses on “the relationship between discourse, gender, power and identity”. The course guide poses the questions: “How do people express identity through language? How is powerlessness revealed in talk? Is language inherently sexist?”

    In Strange Home: Rethinking Australian Literature, also in the literature school, stories of the spirit of the pioneers are bypassed for key works of Australian literature that question “nationalist frameworks” and “identify and discuss a range of theoretical approaches to literature and race, sexuality and culture difference”.

    Bella d’Abrera, head of the Institute of Public Affairs’ Foundations of Western Civilisation Program, said yesterday: “ANU might well offer 150 humanities subjects on the West, but they are disconnected and piecemeal”.

    An ANU spokeswoman said the list detailed courses in Western civilisation disciplines, of which history, language, philosophy and politics were “fundamental”.

    While the parties have given differing accounts of why their negotiations failed, both insist they are open to resuming negotiations.

    Courses that ANU says comes under the banner of Western civilisation

    Human Variations and Racism in Western Culture (School of History)

    The course investigates how Western societies have comprehended physical diversity … Students will explore how ideas shape colonisation and chattel slavery; nationalism and empire; segregation and sexuality; eugenics and genocide.

    Human Rights in History (School of History)

    How did the concept of universal human rights arise? What role have individual and collective voices of protest played? This course will focus on slavery and forced labour; colonisation; gender disparities and sexual minorities; … asylum seeking; the right to die; prisoners’ rights.

    Real Men: Masculinities in Western History (School of History)

    What makes a real man? Students will explore how and why notions of manliness have shifted in the context of revolution, war, exploration, imperialism and anti-colonialism.

    Global Citizen: Culture, Development and Inequality (School of Archaeology and Anthropology)

    Just how involved are we on a daily basis … with globalisation? Is there a more ethical way for us to approach some of those core global practices … consumption, tourism, inhabiting the city, and using the internet and social media?

    Strange Home: Rethinking Australian Literature (School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics)

    This course … will not tell a story about the spirit of the pioneers or being at home in the landscape, [it] will introduce students to key works of Australian literature, questioning nationalist frameworks for thinking about such writing and positioning it within transnational cultural histories.

    Language Power and Identity (School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics)

    This course will focus on the relationship between discourse, gender, power and identity. How do people express identity through language? How is powerlessness revealed in talk? Is language inherently sexist?

    From the Comments

    – There it is for all to see. No wonder Ramsay’s proposal was rejected. Where would a foundational course of study in western civilisation fit in these cherry picked, victim producing range of topics. Not a good advertisement for ANU, and a lucky escape for Ramsay. The unresolved question is to find a University that retains an open and enquiring mind, if they still exist.

    – I know my Arts degree is over 40 years old, but I didn’t think things were as bad as this at ANU, and if this is supposed to be the premier humanities institution, how bad must the others be. Why shouldn’t students be encouraged to approach a text from the perspective of the author and with an open, inquiring mind. Seems fundamental to me. These current offerings at ANU are pathetic.

    You know the really sad thing? Apart from the onward march of Marxists through our institutions, its that we, the poor put upon taxpayer are paying for this cr$%p. We are a very rich but stupid country.

  15. JohnJJJ

    Yawn, everyone is so polite or is it lacking in balls. Ramsies – stand up for yourselves and tell the Universities what you really think. Degree in Western Civilisation delivered by pansy apologetic cowards.
    How do you think the West was civilised? Not by the gutless, fawning, spineless snivels.
    Julius Caesar, Kitchener and Alex the Great would be turning in their graves. Grow some.

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