Orwell, Peterson and the Ramsay Centre

Nov 12, 2018 by

Christopher Heathcote –

The rise of identity politics and political correctness is seeing old battles re-fought, with bossy new ubergangsters  advocating Soviet-style textual censorship with hackneyed arguments soundly discredited decades ago. Worse, timid vice-chancellors cave in at the slightest nudge

Image result for pipe-smoking, cushion-class lefties photos

ramsay logo IIAcademics at the Australian National University and the University of Sydney have put their monikers on petitions hostile to a proposed degree on Western civilisation. There are said to be over a hundred signatures. All has been played out much as in Malcolm Bradbury’s 1975 novel of university life The History Man, where a sociology lecturer plants a false rumour about his university’s annual guest lecture. He then engineers a crisis by manipulating the gullible and the incautious among scholars, students and administrators. Likewise hot-headed academics in Canberra and Sydney have performed with comic vigour in a striking instance of life imitating fiction.

But about those signatures on the two petitions. Were any coerced?

Several times in my own academic career I and my co-tutors were placed in the invidious position of being compelled to sign petitions. Anyone who has been casually employed as a sessional tutor or lecturer knows that unsettling sense of vulnerability experienced when a senior academic says you must support something. You are told to sign this, or in a meeting vote against that. How do you refuse? Will you be re-employed next semester if you don’t comply? Might your job be on the line? After all, they have power over you.

On this occasion it’s not as if you can go to the union for advice, because the National Tertiary Education Union instigated both petitions against the Ramsay Centre. There it was, for the entire nation to see. NTEU organisers had academics fall in line and do what they wanted—just like the works shop steward Mr Kite in the feature film I’m All Right Jack.

The annoying thing is that the NTEU, of which I am a member, is forever carping about a loss of academic jobs and the casualisation of university teaching. Here was the chance of solid positions for academics like me. The proposed programs were to provide employment for scholars. Real jobs. Besides, the Ramsay Centre would have served as the base for solid research work. At the least it could have hosted conferences that attracted scholars from around the world. The networking opportunities for Australian academics would have been a godsend. I would have probably been among those delivering conference papers.

But union branch presidents, who themselves probably enjoy tenure and generous university salaries along with the 17.5 per cent academic superannuation, have spoiled a chance of jobs for others. One is put in mind of George Orwell’s observations in The Road to Wigan Pier about tweedy, pipe-smoking, cushion-class lefties. It’s invariably other people’s lives that are harmed by these bossy, self-righteous busybodies.

Workplace harassment of lower-level academics is endemic in the modern university. I have witnessed this—and myself been on the receiving end—several times. However, education unions are loath to act if it’s lefty lecturers who boss junior staff about. This appears the same around the Western world. Take the instance in Ontario, Canada, last year when Lindsay Shepherd, a young sessional lecturer at Wilfrid Laurier University, introduced Jordan Peterson’s work in her seminars.

In early November 2017, Ms Shepherd’s supervisor asked her to see him. He did not foreshadow what he wished to discuss, just advising that other members of the faculty hierarchy would be present. It looked innocent enough, although Ms Shepherd’s mother suggested her daughter carry a small tape recorder. This was astute advice. The audio recording  (edited highlights embedded below)of that meeting became evidence in a successful bullying complaint made against the university by the young academic. It has since been posted on YouTube, having triggered a commotion throughout higher education in Canada, America and Europe.

Source: Orwell, Peterson and the Ramsay Centre — Quadrant Online

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