Nexus on Thesis Row

July 15th, 2009 at 12:37 pm by David Farrar

The Waikato University mag Nexus has a couple of interesting articles on the stoush over the thesis, entitled Dreamers of the Dark: Kerry Bolton and the Order of the Left Hand path, a Case-study of a Satanic-Neo-Nazi synthesis.

Some interesting aspects:

They indicate that the process entailed several different reports with various authors. Deputy Vice-Chancellor Doug Sutton, who was in charge of the review, recommended that the thesis be downgraded from First Class Honours, although he said it still deserved a passing grade.

Additionally, Sutton said that because supervisor Dov Bing had “well known and longstanding views against Neo-Nazi groups,” there was a possible conflict of interest.

van Leeuwen and key staff involved with the thesis were also barred from viewing some finished reports. van Leeuwen became so frustrated with the process at one point during this year that he sought legal advice on suing the University.

The disagreements led to the secretary of the Tertiary Education Union, Sharn Riggs, sending a letter to Professor Crawford, saying that Waikato University staff were talking of withdrawing from postgraduate supervision because their jobs were not safe, and that Sutton’s reports impinged on academic freedom.

It sounds there are some unresolved issues.

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Norman attacks academic

March 30th, 2009 at 3:51 pm by David Farrar

A bad-tempered e-mail forwarded to me reveals that Green Party co-leader Russel Norman has written to political scientists Nigel Roberts and Stephen Levine to try to stop them publishing the research of an academic opponent of the Electoral Finance Act. Levine and Roberts are currently editing their traditional post-election book due out soon, and the book contains a chapter written by University of Otago political scientist Bryce Edwards who is evaluating the impact that the EFA had on last years’ election campaign. Norman has emailed them to essentially say that they shouldn’t be publishing it and that Edwards shouldn’t be researching in this area.

The email from Norman, which was sent to Edwards, and which he kindly forwarded to me, is rather extraordinary, and gives an interesting insight into how thin skinned the Greens (or Norman anyway) is of dissenting views. Despite having a PhD himself, Norman is clearly he’s no fan of academic freedom. Edwards has been widely published and reported on in the area of political finance, yet according to Norman, Edwards, “lacks academic credibility in this area”. Could it be that Norman still can’t handle having the EFA criticized? It seems that Norman and the Greens have dug themselves into a hole on the EFA, and while everyone other former fan of the now-repealed legislation has given up trying to defend the indefensible, the Greens are tying themselves up in knots over it all. They are in a political bunker on the EFA and the idea of an opponent of the EFA researching the effect of the legislation is just too much for them.

Worse than that – in Russel Norman’s view – Edwards has said some critical things about the Greens on his blog! Oh dear. Norman says in his email to Edwards, which Norman also creepily sent to the book editors, ‘you have demonstrated a long history of bias against the Green Party, and you have consistently made untrue statements about the Green Party’. Geez, is Norman turning into Winston Peters?! Norman says: ‘Your previous writing leads me to the view that you are simply unable to give a dispassionate academic account of the EFA’s impact on political parties due both to your virulent opposition to the EFA and to your one-sided and inaccurate commentary on the EFA and the Green Party’. Norman or his staff seemingly went through two and a half years of writings by Edwards to compile their dossier on him.

In fact Norman’s email tirade reads like something Rob Muldoon might have said when he was at his worst. The National Party gets requests from lefty academics all the time, but I doubt that the party then sends out hostile replies that question the academic’s integrity because they might be politically biased! I thought that everyone now accepts that academics have their own biases and that for them to pretend otherwise is just a sham.

Put it like this. Jane Kelsey has well known views on free trade. Think how much outrage there would be if the leader of the National Party fired off an e-mail to senior academics saying Kelsey should not be allowed to publish academic reseaerch on free trade, because she doesn’t support it, and she is biased against parties that do support it? There would be an avalanche of outrage – the Association of University Staff would leap in to defend academic freedom etc. Luckily most National MPs have better things to do than try and get academics prevented from publishing academic research.

And funnily enough, Russel Norman’s nasty little email was actually in response to Edwards kindly inviting Norman to have an input into his research. Considering the Green Party had problems obeying the EFA, I would have thought they would have wanted to detail these problems so a replacement law can avoid the mistakes of the EFA.

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Dom Post on Race Relations Commissioner

May 28th, 2008 at 7:59 am by David Farrar

The Dominion Post is not impressed with that the Race Relations Commissioner is launching a a review into the research done by Massey academic Greg Clydesdale into Pacific Island immigration.

Interviewed this week, Mr de Bres seemed as irritated by the fact that the research was done at all and that a media outlet had the temerity to report it as with any “issues” that the study might have raised. The commissioner seems unhappy that the paper gained access to Dr Clydesdale’s research and to believe – erroneously – that those who disagreed with it had no chance to comment.

He needs to reread the article. Pacific Island Affairs Minister Winnie Laban was quoted as seriously rejecting Dr Clydesdale’s findings, which may well be flawed. So was Samoan Advisory Council spokesman Tino Pereira.

Mr de Bres seems in danger of forgetting this is a democracy, in which academics have the freedom their institutions allow them to comment and critique society and newspapers have the right not only to report such comment and criticism but also to decide what prominence to give what is, by any definition, news. …

Mr de Bres is entitled to his review. But if it does not find that it is totally legitimate for an academic to research immigration policy and for the media to report it, then the review will be flawed. Society is benefited in no way by political correctness taken to extremes.

It does all seem an extreme reaction to one academic study. The more worrying reaction is the reported comments by Labour Minister Shane Jones who allegedly said on Newstalk ZB that he had called Steve Maharey about the author.

The Association of University Staff should be very concerned about this, if correct. To have a Cabinet Minister contact the Vice-Chancellor (and a former colleague) because he disagrees with the research of an academic is obviously inappropriate and intimidating. Let alone boasting about it on radio and suggesting the academic should be teaching primary school children only.

So maybe the AUS could take a break from complaining about Massey students winning beauty contests and say something about Massey academics having academic freedom.

This is not to suggest that academic freedom means you can not criticise academics. Far from it. But to personally contact the Vice-Chancellor and advocate he should not be teaching at a tertiary level is very different from merely criticising.

Perhaps Mr Maharey (who seems to think being Vice-Chancellor is a part time job as he is still an MP) could reveal what he said back to Mr Jones.

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