UNSW Yells Bright and Not So Bright for the Voice

UNSW proudly claims to have been the first of the Go8 universities to declare support for the Voice to Parliament, and they’re now supporting the Voice with all lights blazing. This is a mistake, professionally and ethically. And, most importantly and least importantly, it is a strategic mistake. As a supporter of the Voice, it is sad and frustrating to see these guys stuffing up.

Given UNSW’s now terawattage support for the Voice we decided to check on what the other Go8 guys had been doing. It’s an interesting mix, which has been reported on here (with no great aim). As we wrote previously, Monash and Unimelb have come out in support of the Voice, and the University of Queensland and ANU can also be added to the list. UQ seemingly does so without even acknowledging that there are likely opposing views within the University; ANU acknowledges there will be differing views but seems either unconcerned about or simply oblivious to the strong possibility that public declarations of the Council and the Vice-Chancellor will chill the expression of these other views.

Interestingly, the other three Go8 universities have not come out in support of (or against) the Voice. As near as we can tell, the University of Sydney and the University of Western Australia have made no announcement whatsoever, even to announce that they’re not making an announcement. The University of Adelaide, however, has made an interesting, if muddy, announcement to not announce:

The University is committed to upholding academic freedom and freedom of speech. These things make our campuses and our publications important places for the free exchange of ideas and for the debates that keep our democracy vibrant, healthy, and fair. 

The University Council encourages everyone to engage in this important democratic process with generosity of spirit, respect for the views of others, and minds open to persuasion.

… Council members are aware that individuals of goodwill hold a range of views on the desirable outcome of the proposed referendum.

In this context, the University itself should be a place where the diverse perspectives of our community can be shared and where free, informed, and respectful debate on this societal issue of deep consequence can take place.

It is the correct decision and, if far from clear Kalven, a pretty good statement. The statement is further de-Kalvened by also noting that “senior figures from the University, including the Chancellor and the Vice-Chancellor” have supported the Voice, “in their personal capacities”, these “personal capacities”, of course, being entirely fictional. Nonetheless, it is still a good statement. If only there were more.

It would be a big help, and a relief, if more education leaders spent more energy and concern on teaching people how to think and less on telling them what to think.

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