Thursday 18 November 2021

From TEU to FSU

Jack Heinemann's take on academic freedom in New Zealand provides an excellent on-campus recruitment opportunity for New Zealand's Free Speech Union. 

The Free Speech Union, as a registered union, has rights to enter workplaces to talk to workers. They should plan a round of campus visits.

Here's Jack:

Making conscience central in all activities of a critic and conscience of society might avoid some future clashes in Aotearoa. Academic freedom is the right to bring forth unpopular or controversial opinions, not to promote opinions popular with those who have social or financial privileges.

For example, white/Pākehā academics making comment on mātauranga Māori in defence of “science” don’t need to use academic freedom because the westernized institution of science already has disproportionate power and influence in any clash with indigenous knowledge systems. So when a university takes a neutral position, treating the academic protagonists and academic responders equally based on narrow ideas of a right to free speech, the institution stumbles as critic and conscience of society. Moreover, it fails to both preserve and enhance academic freedom.

Other examples include attempts to use university campuses as platforms for racially or genderised “forums”. Those without power or privilege don’t need tertiary institutions to criticize them, turn their backs on criticisms of them, or to host it. The desire of majority members of white paternalistic societies to have their ideas spoken on campus is not equal to the right of minority ethnic and non-binary groups to feel accepted and safe there.

Privilege is an asymmetry of power that marginalizes and excludes others. No history of academic freedom is consistent with the notion that it speaks privilege to power.

So. If your research shows that claims of oppression in the case you're studying are overstated, or that an institution isn't as colonialist and evil as others have suggested, you should probably shut up about it because that doesn't count under critic and conscience. Because it reinforces power or something. 

If you haven't joined the Free Speech Union yet, and you're a New Zealand academic, they may be more likely to have your back than the TEU, if it comes to it.  

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