To bring you up to date, I advise you that Drew Fraser this morning informed Mr. Tim Sprague, Director Human Resources, in a two-line email that he rejected our offer to bring forward his retirement, scheduled for next July.
At the same time or earlier, he sent out a lengthy statement to the media. We received his press release from the media, after several newspapers, radio and television station had sought my comments on its contents. It is attached.
There is no general guarantee that retiring academic staff will be given Honorary Associate status. Drew Fraser asked earlier this week for this status, when considering retiring earlier. We agreed to provide it until his scheduled retirement date of July next year. He wanted to be given that status for a longer period.
As for his personal attacks on me in the press release, I will wear them as a badge of honour. I would be most concerned, given his stated views on the subject of race, immigration and multiculturalism, and how repugnant I find them, if he thought I or the University as an institution shared any part of his views.
Before and after his meeting on Tuesday with Tim Sprague, there were media reports allegedly quoting Drew Fraser and suggesting that he was being “sacked” or that he had been told that, if he did not accept my offer to bring his retirement forward with no loss of pay, he would be sacked. It is not true that he was told this. What he was told was that, if he wished to work out the rest of his contract until his scheduled departure in July 2006, the University reserved its right to re-open the matter after further examination.
It is similarly not true, as reported, again with quotes from Associate Professor Fraser, that he was told by Tim Sprague that our offer to bring his retirement forward was motivated by the supposed effects of his public comments on the overseas student market. Contrary to his repeated claims, our earnings from international education have not been part of our thinking on this matter. Our motivations have been in terms of fundamental principles which are far more important than commercial considerations.
We’ve expressed our commitment to free speech, subject to the laws of the land, in each of the three statements we’ve issued on this matter. (The first two were issued by John Loxton as Acting VC while I was overseas. I issued the third on my return this week, as indicated above.)
While I personally find his statements repugnant, I do not aspire to curb anyone’s right of free speech. Indeed I’m quite certain that our offer to Drew Fraser to pay out the remaining year of his contract, had he accepted it, would have given him even more opportunity, not less, to exercise that right. There is no suppression of free speech and no wish to stifle debate on campus or elsewhere. Indeed a forum is being organised on campus on the subject by our Centre for Research on Social Inclusion, which specialises in questions of racism, migration and multiculturalism, on the topic, “How should Macquarie University respond to Andrew Fraser? This is proper and, I am sure, will be useful to me and to others trying to deal responsibly with this matter.
However, it is one matter for Drew Fraser to be able to express his views, which he is doing at every opportunity, and can certainly continue to do, but another to associate the university by attaching its name and the title of one’s appointment when doing so on matters outside the academic area which an academic is appointed to teach and research. That inappropriately gives them extra weight and suggests some “credentials”.
In this regard we remind staff of the relevant provisions in the Code of Conduct (also attached). John Loxton, DVC, Academic, has already said that he will review these provisions to see if they need extra specificity.
Then there is Macquarie’s commitment to other valued rights, such as the right of all our students to enjoy a safe, harmonious, supportive university environment, free from the fear or actuality of racial or ethnic discrimination and insult. We have tried to find a way of supporting such rights without suppressing Drew Fraser’s right to speak out as a private citizen on whatever issues he chooses.
One correspondent this week quotes Dr Martin Luther King Jr: “My criticism of Professor Fraser’s remarks is not couched in political correctness or multicultural notions but in basic human decency and the profound belief that people should be judged ‘not by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character’.”
Those are the values this University espouses and I personally embrace. Council unanimously resolved on 26 June 1998 during the debates on race, immigration and multiculturalism related to the ‘One Nation’ Party:
“That the Council of Macquarie University believes that the diverse, multicultural backgrounds of the University community greatly enhance the educational experience.
It regards the University as a safe place in which people can grow and develop intellectually, socially, physically, morally, culturally and spiritually without any fear that they will be overtly or covertly denigrated, vilified, discriminated against or in any other way threatened because of their race, or for any other reason.
We further affirm the mission of the University to nurture and encourage people from all backgrounds to achieve their full potential so that their lives might be enriched, not embittered, and so that they may contribute and take part in a safe, exciting, prosperous, tolerant and diverse future.”
On 1 July 1998 the Daily Telegraph gave the University Council its DUX award for this resolution.
As indicated in Tuesday’s public statement from me, I made an apology to the African leaders who sought a meeting with me on Monday because I was distressed and ashamed that Drew Fraser had inappropriately associated the University with views which so fundamentally contravened its position. I unreservedly make the same apology to all groups who have been hurt by his remarks.
We have read in today’s Australian about Drew Fraser’s concerns: [he] “said he was worried about his physical wellbeing because he was tipped off yesterday that students from University of Technology were planning to disrupt his classes.”
We have not been advised of this by Drew Fraser or anyone else, but now that he has revealed this concern, we have a duty to act decisively to protect his safety and that of others on campus.
In addition, my office has received threatening telephoned and email messages, from people purporting to support Drew Fraser which indicated risks to the safety of those on campus who express a view different from his own.
The debate over his stated views is threatening to spill over into the classroom. It seems from what he has told the Australian that there is grounds for concern that some students may seek to enter the classroom and prevent the classes proceeding and hence interrupt the transfer of knowledge.
Moreover, his comments have elicited such a strong response from students, staff and the public that it is affecting the university’s ability to operative effectively.
In response to these difficulties, Tim Sprague after discussion with senior management and the Dean, has informed Drew Fraser that it will not be appropriate for him to teach until further notice. Other arrangements have been made for the teaching of the two units which he was scheduled to teach in second semester.
Macquarie University Enterprise Agreement 2000-2003
Code of Conduct
27 Where the matter of a media statement or letter related directly to the academic or other specialise subject area of a staff member’s appointment, the member may use the University’s name and address and give the title of her or his University appointment in order to establish her or his credentials.
28 All staff members have the right to express their views publicly on any matter of public interest as private citizens. Statements made or letters written in this context should not include the name and address of the University (or any part of it) or the title of her or his University appointment.