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Free Speech At Universities

  1. Aug 7, 2017 #1

    bhobba

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    Hi Guys

    This case is very famous here in Aus and involves my old Alma Mater, QUT, where I studied math and computer sciece:
    http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/re...l/news-story/09857c729cbc94d0c0c24996349cb68e

    It has been a bit divisive out here with most people on the students side (they were - IMHO - well screwed) but curios what those overseas think.

    Thanks
    Bill
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 7, 2017 #2

    symbolipoint

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    The link does not give an article. No topic to read.

    "There's more to this storyBut it's a member-only story. Subscribe today to unlock it and more..."

    Who wants to subscribe just to read the article?
     
  4. Aug 7, 2017 #3

    bhobba

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    Sorry guys.

    They obviously put it behind a paywall. I subscribe so it didn't affect me. I will post what it says:

    Start of article (some irrelevant bits removed)

    What happened to Alex Wood, 23, and his fellow Queensland University of Technology students could happen to anyone for expressing a mild opinion on Facebook.

    << Quote shortened by Mentors due to copyright issues >>

    End of article

    There is not much more I can say except he easily reached his target donation wise so didnt end up out of pocket.

    He was represented pro bono by a QC (Queens Council - in the US they would probably be called something like Senior Council) - it outraged the QC so much. But there were still a few costs to pay even after he won in trying to obtain some recompense for the affect it had on his studies etc. He easily won that - but she is pretty much bankrupt so it ended up being out of his pocket.

    Thanks
    Bill
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 17, 2017
  5. Aug 7, 2017 #4

    OCR

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    Last edited: Aug 7, 2017
  6. Aug 7, 2017 #5

    bhobba

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  7. Aug 7, 2017 #6

    OCR

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    Last edited: Aug 8, 2017
  8. Aug 8, 2017 #7

    OCR

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    Odd... that link is pay-walled too...?
    It works from google though...?

    upload_2017-8-7_23-3-54.png

    Lol... only once, then the site sets some cookies and gets pay-walled... I guess ?

    upload_2017-8-7_23-35-59.png
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2017
  9. Aug 8, 2017 #8

    bhobba

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    This pay wall stuff is weird. I subscribe digitally to a local newspaper and I am pretty sure they have reciprocal agreements with others so what I see is likely different to what you see. But they don't with others (I think the Australian is one they don't) and similar weird things happens to me.

    Anyway the Australian article is just a rehash of what I posted.

    Thanks
    Bill
     
  10. Aug 8, 2017 #9

    bhobba

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    Just in case anyone is interested my doctor said - forget about this spike which was picked up as part of other blood tests. He wants to see the other sugar test they do - the long term one. Also my BP was up - by the so called accurate automatic machine it was 220 over something or another. WHAT. He then pulled out one of those old-fashioned ones that are in fact more accurate - it was really 168 - not good - but not 220. It was possibly white coat pressure - but he will run some other tests just to be sure and check it again. It's still a bit high, I may have to increase my blood pressure medication - I am on a small dose right now and usually with that its 140.

    Now to 18C and HRC.

    18c is legislation that says its an offence to offend anyone based on race. That's right - if they feel offended you broke the law. Utterly ridicules - even looking at a woman can offend some of them. In fact when I had bad acne many moons ago at 19, I saw a beautician to clear out my pimples. She was a good looking well groomed Asian lady. I went to see her years later - my acne had cleared up but they are relaxing, I was on holiday so went back for a while. She remembered me and we chatted a bit, asking how I was, what I had been up to etc. Anyway out of the blue one day she started looking a bit sad - she is normally pretty happy - I said - whats the matter - men are always looking at me - it makes feel like a freak. I had to explain to her its not because she is Asian or anything like that - its just because she is good looking. It seemed to help her, she should have really told her husband not me, but Asians tend to hold stuff in - they have this so called thick face - black heart philosophy you can even buy a book on. Its an example of how just normal behavior can offend people - its an unenforceable standard even though of course it happens. You don't make laws about it - in fact there is nothing you can really do about it.

    The HRC is the Human Rights Commission run by someone called Gillian Triggs who has recently left. Without going into details she is an incompetent loony left ninny - but like all heads of departments very politically astute. She was so bad the government asked her to resign. She refused to and we had to wait until her contract was up. She waited two years - that's right two years - before telling these poor uni students they had a complaint issued against them. Her excuse - she was sorry and would do things differently next time. I know of all sorts of other rubbish she did but just lets say - she is incompetent.

    Thanks
    Bill
     
  11. Aug 8, 2017 #10

    OCR

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    Last edited: Aug 8, 2017
  12. Aug 8, 2017 #11
    I'm a little confused. Is the lady in financial ruin Ms. Prior? Why isn't Alex Woods suing the university for his legal fees? That's how you stop this nonsense. I think the people that caved and paid $5000 should get their money back, probably x3 or x5; again, paid by the university.
     
  13. Aug 8, 2017 #12

    Vanadium 50

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    That's not what many students here think. They think they go to college to get a certificate that entitles them to the job of their choice.

    I don't understand where universities come into this. As far as I can tell from your description of 18C, it is a crime to offend, period. Nothing special about universities. Sure, this case happened at a university, but it had to have happened somewhere.
     
  14. Aug 8, 2017 #13

    bhobba

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    What can I say - hammer hitting nail. But some, like me, did. It wasn't about political rubbish like this - it was about what I was taught. It got so bad one lecturer said to me - Bill I can show you books that will answer your queries - but you wouldn't read them they are so boring. He was right.

    Only in that it actually happened at a university and I wanted to hear what people think of free speech being muffled at tertiary institutions. Not only muffled but students that simply want to do what you said in the first bit going through needless trauma.

    Thanks
    Bill
     
  15. Aug 8, 2017 #14

    OCR

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    Yes, I believe so...
     
  16. Aug 8, 2017 #15

    bhobba

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    Yes Mrs Prior is likely to be declared bankrupt. I don't know why they aren't suing the university - maybe costs.

    All this is of course interesting, but not the intent of my post.

    Its what do people think of university students being subjected to this?

    Vanadium50 is right - this is a sub-forum about education - do people think this is just an unfortunate occurrence or something universities should be more active in ensuring it doesn't happen to students? It seems the QUT may have tried to cover it up. Is that OK for the greater good of the institution? What is other peoples view?

    Thanks
    Bill
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2017
  17. Aug 8, 2017 #16

    bhobba

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    WOW - she actually avoided bankruptcy - amazing.

    Thanks
    Bill
     
  18. Aug 14, 2017 #17
    Yep. Any real academic freedom presupposes a broad underlying 1st amendment freedoms (as we like to think of them based on the US Constitution) - free speech, free press, free religion, free assembly, petition, etc. In the US, we also have an important Constitutional principle banning ex post facto laws. Laws that ban conduct based on perception by others are inherently ex post facto, because citizens have no way of knowing how their actions will be perceived in the future, so that the meaning of a law can change over time as perceptions change.

    Yep. But professors and academics are not doing enough to change that perception during the time most students are pursuing their undergraduate degrees. Rather than debating the most offensive ideas, too many folks in academia are working harder and harder toward administrative muzzles (negative consequences) - almost like they are afraid or too lazy of open debate and discussion. Academics are overly eager to put to many offensive or controversial ideas in the box of "settled issues" and move on to other things. But if an offensive or controversial idea is popping up in campus conversations and has advocates on both sides, it is manipulative and dishonest to consider it "settled." Both sides of any debate or discussion should always be allowed without fear of negative consequence.

    How do you know an academic environment (or other community) is truly free? The litmus test is whether an honest and open expression of "the other side" of any idea can be openly held and debated by a member of that community without fear or threat of negative legal or administrative consequences. If it's OK to express one position on homosexual marriage, then it must be OK to express any other position. If it's OK to express one position on race relations, then it must be OK to express any other position. If it's OK to express one position on gender equality, then it must be OK to express any other position. If it's OK to express one position on global warming, then it must be OK to express any other position. If it's OK to express one position on evolution, then it must be OK to express any other opinion,

    If we're honest, we should realize that few of our institutions or even our own practices would fare well when tested by the above litmus test. We all have our sacred cows where we move from open debate to administrative or legal consequences for the ideas we fear the most. Before we address the issue with the Australian law too loudly, we should work a bit harder to get the log out of our own eye.
     
  19. Aug 14, 2017 #18
    Let's return on topic and discussion relevant to the OP. Thanks!
     
  20. Aug 16, 2017 #19
    I've done my best to Google for articles and commentary on this particular incident. Aside from newspaper articles, I found an op-ed piece from The Conversation, a U.S.-based academic journalism and commentary site, which seems pretty good at explaining what went wrong in this incident and more generally what the problems are with 18C and AHRC; it largely agrees with the version already posted here from The Australian. Here's the link: QUT discrimination case exposes Human Rights Commission failings

    Now, let's get back to the question that @bhobba posed in starting this thread, and which he reiterated in his comment #15: What does this incident say about free speech at universities in general?

    My answer: 18C is a particular piece of Australian legislation (link here) that, as @Vanadium 50 has already pointed out, isn't specific to universities in the first place. So this incident in effect says nothing about the question of free speech at universities in general; not unless one made an analysis of how 18C has been carried out at universities specifically versus other places in Australia.

    So to me the question remains a good one, but more substance would have been useful to start things off. Also, my personal preference, given that PF is a science-based and reason-based forum, is for an analytical approach to such questions, i.e. at a minimum establishing categories of concern, rather than merely throwing examples at the wall to see if they will stick. For example, in some cases a university's policies might be antagonistic to free speech, but in other cases it might be that a group of students independently demonstrated hostility toward free speech, following a meme that has become popular in academic culture. Also there is the question of what the ideal should be & why, which is something Dr. Courtney pointed towards in his comment.
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2017
  21. Aug 16, 2017 #20
    A P.S. to my comment above: Even more interesting to me, as someone who formerly taught at the university level, would be what folks who teach do in their own classrooms to protect free speech, including that of students with politically unpopular views.

    In my case I taught essay writing, including argumentative essays; and I remember having to instruct a classroom of mostly liberal students how to respond constructively rather than antagonistically to a student who had written an essay expressing a politically conservative point of view. In other cases I had to intervene in squabbles between individual students who had very different political views (e.g. pro- and anti-Israel), again with a goal of showing that civility and constructive dialog are both possible & desirable. I may have been lucky as a teacher in that my subject matter was directly aligned with developing the capacities required.
     
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