Face of the day

Dr Jonathan Tracy

Today’s face of the day is an academic prepared to stand up to defend freedom of speech. In an article in a newspaper, he said

As a humanities lecturer in classical studies at Massey University, I am disturbed by the recent push toward censorship – or, in the current euphemism, “no-platforming” or “de-platforming” – of dissenting viewpoints, both at Massey and in New Zealand and the Western world as a whole.

[…] According to the Roman historian Tacitus, the key distinguishing feature of life under good emperors – as opposed to bad, tyrannical emperors – is that a good emperor leaves you “free to think what you like and to say what you think”. 

He has also written a letter published on Kiwiblog where he calls for the resignation of Massey Vice-Chancellor Jan Thomas.

[…] I believe that Professor Thomas’ handling of the Don Brash affair, as documented both in her public statements and in the newly released batch of e-mails, reveals three things about her leadership:

(a) She is a woman of strong political beliefs.

(b) She feels entitled to banish any speaker or person whose opinions might violate her core beliefs from the university over which she presides.

(c) She is prepared to use any means necessary to achieve (b), in whatever way seems easiest to “spin” for PR purposes.

While I respect Professor Thomas for (a), I vehemently disagree with the attack on the freedom of academic speech and debate contained in (b). But for me as a lecturer, point (c) is the most troubling, since it means that I can no longer trust my own boss. If Professor Thomas decides one day that my teaching and research or even my personal opinions are not in harmony with “a Te Tiriti-led university”, will she take overt or covert steps to have me removed too, without being upfront about her reasons for doing so?[…]


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