The terrible decision by the Massey Vice-Chancellor to ban Don Brash from speaking on campus has managed to unite almost everyone. The Minister of Education has said it was the wrong decision. Simon Bridges said it was appalling. Even Bomber Bradbury has condemned it.
The Dom Post editorial says:
The possibility of offence, the creation of innovation and the path of progress go hand in hand. And universities are so often vital vessels in their transportation. That a university, no less, a venue we so often look to for that cultural, political and academic disruption, would ban a speaker such as Brash, a former Reserve Bank governor and Opposition leader, is of great concern. We hope that other institutions will either distance themselves from such actions or make it clear they disagree.
Brash is used to a bit of mud-slinging. He once infamously tasted a bit of the brown stuff because of his views on race and racial preference. Thomas and Massey University have just thrown some themselves. But in the act of doing so they have covered themselves in more than a little dirt. And besmirched the free speech and academic freedoms they should be promoting.
If the Vice-Chancellor won’t back down and apologise, the University Council should intervene as the body obligated to ensure they uphold academic freedom.
Michael Reddell blogs:
Professor Thomas appears to regard such views – and opposition to Maori wards on local councils (which have been defeated in most/all places where a referendum has been held on them) – as simply illegitimate, and having no place in New Zealand, let alone on the campus of Massey University, an organisation founded and substantially funded by the New Zealand government and taxpayers. She was terrified that Dr Brash might make some negative comment about Maori wards on campus and presumably no one at the university she manages could cope with knowing that somewhere on campus, an elderly former politician was expressing a view they might disagree with – a view which, on this particular occasion, appears to be held by a fairly large chunk of the population.
Well summed up.
Massey is different: it is a public institution (establishment, funding, appointments to the council). And if the (foreign) Vice-Chancellor of a public university thinks Dr Brash – who has given decades of public service to this country – shouldn’t be allowed to speak on campus, when invited by students (what, one wonders, would she do if one of the professors invited him to speak to a class?), you have to wonder who – and which views – are next in the line for a ban. Dr Brash is prominent enough – even if not always liked – that there will be an outcry against his ban, while this sort of insidious censorship can be applied more broadly to less prominent people.
This move has backfired, but as Reddell says it may be used in future against less prominent people.
Her approach isn’t that of the courageous leader defending freedom and debate, but rather of aligning herself with the mob to veto the ability of student groups to invite speakers (ones uttering controversial views) to campus. That sort of mobocracy, if allowed sway, would be the very antithesis of democracy as we’ve come to practice it in countries like ours (even Professor Thomas’s Australia) in the last couple of centuries. Thugs and bullies rule, at the expense of those who respect the ability of decent people to disagree. Thugs and bullies can come from either side of the political spectrum. These days, in New Zealand (and other Anglo countries) they are almost all from the far-left.
And Stephen Franks lays in:
The Free Speech Coalition’s next job seems likely to be to ask a court to tell us about the mystery safety-above-all provision that it appears Auckland Council and Massey University believe in.
This decision by the VC is so appalling it must be challenged.
Barry Soper is succinct:
Thomas says her Māori staff were offended by Brash’s leadership of Hobson’s Pledge, which she seems to think is akin to hate speech. Poor diddums.
If her staff are so precious that they can’t handle an argument against race based seats, they have no business working at a university whose mandate is to allow controversial and unpopular views.
We also have the Manawatu Standard News Director:
It seems Thomas is banning Brash because she doesn’t like what he says – an extraordinary position for a university leader. As Thomas herself says, university staff and students should be allowed to examine controversial and unpopular ideas.
A university that stifles debate, no matter how uncomfortable the subject matter, is undermining its reason for being.
So the local newspaper is also appalled. Yet the VC won’t back down, and is now backed be her Chancellor.