The Guardian 21 February, 2007

University management
stifles free speech


The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) NSW State Office has been advised that a number of universities have refused to allow student and staff union groups to participate in Orientation week activities by denying requests to hire stalls/space during the Week. Reasons given by management for such refusals include their belief that such activities are in contravention of WorkChoices or university funding legislation.

Ms Chris Game, NSW State Secretary of the NTEU, stated that "this is a basic denial of free speech and public debate on issues of paramount interest to the community and to students. The argument that such access contravenes WorkChoices legislation is a nonsense — it is a blatant form of discrimination against staff and students who are also union members."

Dr Stuart Rosewarne, NSW State President of the NTEU said he "was horrified that hitherto bastions of free speech, open enquiry, and academic freedom would deny staff and students the ability to inform the public on issues of major concern."

Dr Rosewarne described these universities’ actions to ban pro-union stalls as "spineless kowtowing in the face of presumed Federal government threats to withhold university funding unless the universities did the bidding of the Howard Government. The bans highlight another way in which university management has been drawn into the service of the Howard government’s attacks on unions and unionism."

At Macquarie University management has given the responsibility of running Orientation Week activities to "Students At Macquarie" (SAM) — a commercial arm of the student association. SAM have advised that they will not allow the NTEU (or other unions or student political groups) to have a stall because unions and political organisations are not authorised to participate in Orientation Week. This stance is despite the fact that many commercial organisations and other groups external to the university will be able to lease space.

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