The red-green ratbags from Sydney university are for free speech? Only leftist free speech, that is. Not for anyone with an opposing view. This was an ugly incident:
Big brave Jake Lynch, director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at Sydney University, repeatedly taunts, films and otherwise intimidates an elderly woman who threw water at anti-Israel protesters who’d stormed a lecture by Colonel Richard Kemp, shouting down the speaker and abusing the audience before wrestling with security guards.
- Academic Jake Lynch cleared of anti-Semitism in ugly stoush at Sydney University
- Sydney University protest: 13 people investigated after public lecture disrupted
- The University of Sydney has come under fire from a political party for bowing to pressure
The University of Sydney has been criticised by its own academics and students for its actions following a protest that has resulted in one professor facing the sack and a number of students facing expulsion.
Over a hundred members of the university community attended a meeting at the Camperdown campus on Wednesday to condemn the university for “restricting free speech” after 13 protesters were handed show-cause notices following turbulent scenes at a lecture by retired British colonel Richard Kemp, a vocal defender of the Israeli Defence Forces.
Students and Academics at a “Defend Civil Liberties at University” at the University of Sydney pass a motion demanding all charges be dropped against the protesters. Photo: Edwina Pickles
Professor Jake Lynch, who has publicly campaigned against Israel, and 12 others were involved in a fracas at the lecture that began with heckling and descended into students being dragged out of the hall by security guards.
The show-cause notices have meant that those involved have been gagged from speaking publicly.
Professor Lynch has since been cleared of allegations of anti-Semitism but could still face dismissal from his post as the director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies.
University of Sydney has been criticised for its actions in wake of the protest. Photo: Lynne Whiley
Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon accused Vice Chancellor Michael Spence of running an inquisition against his own institution.
“There is no place for McCarthy-like witch hunts at this university or at any university,” she said.
Senator Rhiannon and outspoken Sydney University academic Nicholas Riemer also accused Dr Spence of hypocrisy after a speech he made in April talked of his vision for the university as “that of a forum for the free debate of difficult and often confronting ideas”.
Associate Professor Jake Lynch has since been cleared of allegations of anti-Semitism but could still face dismissal.
The University’s leadership came under fire for its cancellation of an anti-militarism meeting two days before Anzac day this year. The 165-year-old institution also attracted criticism for banning a talk by controversial Muslim cleric Uthman Badar and attempting to prevent the Dalai Lama from speaking on campus in 2014.
NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks described the university’s actions as “bizarre”.
“Universities, which have been a hotbed of free speech for centuries, are threatening staff and students with disciplinary action for expressing themselves”.
Professor Riemer agreed. “It is the young activist with the megaphone not the intellectual in the lecture hall that is the future of free speech” he said.
The Vice Chancellor dismissed the allegations as “simply risible”. “The University is not interested in the political views of staff or students. It is very interested in upholding its Codes of Conduct,” he said.
At the meeting which became occasionally heated, Avril Alba, a lecturer in Jewish civilisation pointed out that staff and students on both sides of the Palestinian-Israeli debate were issued with show-cause notices.
Dr Riemer maintained that the issue was not politics but civil liberties. “What is being done to Jake and the others is an attack on all students and staff at the university. It is wrong and must not be tolerated”.
Prominent lawyer Julian Burnside also leant his support to the dissenting voices.
“The fact that Professor Lynch faces the prospect of dismissal is an indictment on the capacity of the University to engage in meaningful debate,” he said.