The Guardian Objects to the University of Sydney’s Considered Voice

We will vote Yes on the Voice Referendum. Twice, if we think we can get away with it.

We did not begin that strongly in favour, but the sleaziness, vacuousness, blatant dishonesty and outright nastiness of the prominent No campaigners has convinced us as nothing else could. That toxic newt John Howard calling for people to “maintain the rage” is as revolting, and as idiotic, a command from an ex-PM as has ever been made. And they are all revolting. They are all lying. None of them believes a single nasty word they’re uttering. Except for Lidia Thorpe who is, instead, a dim-witted, narcissistic separatist. The entire No campaign has been disgusting, without a single ounce of rational thought or human decency. And so we have chosen to attack The Guardian.

The Guardian has been softly but strongly enough campaigning for the Voice, in their familiar calm and annoyingly assumptive manner. Which, in this instance, is no big deal, and is not in the same solar system as Murdoch’s screeching hell-bats. But if The Guardian strays into our territory then we feel an obligation to respond, and they have.

Yesterday, The Guardian published an article by higher education reporter Caitlin Cassidy, titled,

University of Sydney one of 15 higher education institutions not to have a position on the voice

The article is selective and self-certain in the manner its title suggests, subtly but firmly pressuring for the Yes Side. Cassidy begins by reporting the latest footy scores, noting that the University of Adelaide and the University of Western Australian have not taken an institutional stance on the Voice. Cassidy fails to note, however, that UoA has taken and publicly declared a principled, albeit muddy, stance to not do so. Cassidy then gets on to the University of Sydney and engages in a healthy round of bash-by-quote.

Cassidy can’t be bothered telling us, but the primary impetus for her article is a joint public statement made last week by the University of Sydney’s Chancellor and Vice Chancellor. Cassidy quotes liberally from this statement without indicating the source or deigning to include a link. The UoS statement notes that the University leadership is still discussing how or whether the University should take a public position on the Voice. The key passages, also quoted (mostly) by Cassidy, are:

“There were other concerns that a statement by the University indicating a position would suggest unanimity in view – or seek to impose an institutional perspective on the individuals who form our community. 

“The top priority is for everyone to be informed on the key issues underpinning the referendum and be engaged in the democratic processes.”

This is, of course, a careful and entirely reasonable stance, and is exactly the point. It reflects the position taken by the University of Adelaide and, more fundamentally, the principles of the Kalven Report.

The evident purpose of Cassidy’s article is not to analyse the University of Sydney’s position, however, but simply to undermine it. To this end, Cassidy notes that individuals and leadership groups within UoS have publicly supported the Voice. She then pseudo-counters the UoS statement by quoting a couple Indigenous academic-activists expressing their contempt at such a stance:

“[the leadership team] could’ve been much braver. … What it represents is the way ‘free speech’ gets weaponised in an Indigenous context … it’s not about giving a space for dissent. … I think the ambiguity appeals to a loud few. It’s a political statement in and of itself.”

“[It is] the role of universities [to support the Voice campaign]. … I don’t really stomach that we are mere facilitators of the debate. … Silence is political.”

None of this is remotely an argument against UoS’s statement. One can understand the frustration; the Voice is hugely important to these guys, and very reasonably so. That does not mean, however, that they are correct in their disagreement with UoS and such stances, and their position stills needs to be argued. There is absolutely nothing that Cassidy writes or quotes that even hints at such an argument. Evidently, Cassidy is either too blinkered to realise this or she is so caught up in her softly activist reporting to care. She should care.

One of the depressing aspects of the whole Voice thing has been watching the Yes guys screw up, in particularly in trying to authoritise and authoritarianise doubters into voting Yes. In this regard, it is not just unprincipled for universities to support the Voice, it is an own goal. Who, after all, do they think they might convince, rather than anti-convince?

Cassidy’s article is no big deal. It is a small and relatively unpolluted drop in a big ocean of manipulative twaddle. But it’s still pretty dumb. She should know better. The Guardian should know better.

But, at the end of the day, which is soon, all that matters is how we vote. It is the official Bad Mathematics Position that you should vote Yes on the Voice Referendum. Or, more specifically, vote with a big tick.* The assholes won’t ever know, but you’ll feel good about it.


*) Don’t. If you are concerned for your vote to count, don’t play games. Simply write “YES”.

6 Replies to “The Guardian Objects to the University of Sydney’s Considered Voice”

  1. I didn’t realise that institutions and organisations got a vote in the Referendum. I thought only individuals could vote and will vote according to their own freedom of choice. Individuals (I would contend) have a right to campaign for their own view if they have the resources to do so, but it looks like institutions and organisations can campaign as well. I assume they represent the view of every ‘member’ of their organisation.

    Your comment that

    “One of the depressing aspects of the whole Voice thing has been watching the Yes guys screw up, in particularly in trying to authoritise and authoritarianise doubters into voting Yes. In this regard, it is not just unprincipled for universities to support the Voice, it is an own goal. Who, after all, do they think they might convince, rather than anti-convince?”

    is exactly how I feel.

    1. I don’t think there is anything wrong, in general, with an association taking a stand on the Voice, or whatever. The members will be of similar mind in certain aspects, and the association can reasonably voice that. If a member strays too far from the association’s views, or vice versa, the member can resign. (Which is why, by the way, that people who remain members of the MAV are idiots and deserve what they get.)

      Universities are different. This is the point of the Kalven Report.

  2. It is interesting to see how different Sky UK and Sky Australia are—talking about media independence from their owners.

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