Rodney Hide on Massey’s war on free speech

Massey University Vice-Chancellor Professor Jan Thomas Photo credit: Massey university.
Digital image credit: Pixy

Rodney Hide writes at NBR: Quote:

Weighing upon Massey vice-chancellor Jan Thomas’s mind in banning Don Brash was that Massey University is Tiriti-led.

She emailed, “I do not want a te tiriti led university to be seen to be endorsing racist behaviours” and “being Treaty led will have huge challenges for us if we are to be brave enough to be authentic.”

It’s a new thing. Last year, “Massey University took the bold step to be a Tiriti-led institution”.

The university’s 2018-2022 Strategy explains what it means: “As a Tiriti-led university we are committed to demonstrating authentic leadership in contemporary Aotearoa New Zealand as we uphold Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the founding document of our nation, and its principles through our practice. Massey embraces this not just as an obligation but as a real opportunity for the nation and its people. The university will champion new strategies for advancement and integration of te reo Maori and Maori knowledge, it will demonstrate informed practices consistent with tikanga Maori and will embrace kaupapa Maori across our activities. Massey’s teaching and research will contribute to advanced outcomes for whanau, hapu and iwi.” End quote.

Quite how that applies to Don Brash is beyond me. Is one of those new strategies silencing people they don’t agree with? Is one of the advanced outcomes the removal of people of differing political persuasions?  Quote:

We know there is nothing in the Treaty of Waitangi that would brand Dr Brash a racist (quite the reverse) and, while Treaty principles are embryonic and fluid, there is nothing in the principles expounded by Court of Appeal Justice Robin Cooke in 1987 that would likewise brand him racist or have him banned.

We are left then with the university embracing kaupapa Maori and practices consistent with tikanga Maori. That figures.

Free speech and open debate aren’t tribal values. They are Enlightenment values. The problem for Massey is not that it is Tiriti-led (the Treaty being a product of the Enlightenment) but that it has signed up to tikanga Maori and kaupapa Maori (that is, pre-Enlightenment values and customs).

As one of Professor Jan Thomas’s advisers explained, “Don Brash was interviewed earlier today on RNZ and it is clear he uses free speech as a shield behind which to hide, as do many colonial racists and conservative commentators.”

For Massey, free speech is not a value but a weapon. End quote.

Sadly, it isn’t just Massey, but also the broader left-wing in society these days.  Quote:

That’s because tribal societies are closed societies: Ideas threaten them. And so it is with Massey. Dr Brash’s views are different from ours. He must be bad. He must be banned. He’s dangerous.

Indeed, Professor Thomas’s concerns were of the harm Dr Brash speaking could cause staff and students and she canvassed putting up signs warning them off his ideas.

There is no marrying the values of a closed society with those of an open one. They are inimical to one another. In being truly authentic, Professor Jan Thomas has defined Massey University as a closed society.

In so doing she has turned Massey away from everything a university stands for.

The brouhaha over Dr Brash runs much deeper than opposing politics and bad judgement: the truly amazing thing is that Massey still calls itself a university and remains funded as if it were one. End quote.

Massey University deserves pariah status. It is now obvious that the university is no longer open for all. Not only are they in breach of the Education Act but they are also in breach of the Bill of Rights.

Jan Thomas should change her title from vice-chancellor to vice-commissar.


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

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