Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Vice-Chancellor: La Trobe Protestors Abused Freedom of Speech

English: Moat with George Singer Building in t...
Moat with George Singer Building in the background, at La Trobe University Bundoora (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Professor John Dewar, Vice-Chancellor at La Trobe University, The Conversation:

On Sunday, La Trobe University held its most successful Open Day ever, with more than 19,000 visitors.

But the day was disrupted by student protests against recently announced changes to our Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

We knew in advance that students intended to use the Melbourne event to stage a protest.

But because of the importance of Open Day to the university’s recruitment of future students, and thus to the future job security of our staff, we had asked students to let us know in advance of their plans to stage protests.

We felt that this was the best way to strike a balance between preserving free speech, while allowing the university to go about its business on one of the most important days of the year.

The Student Union informed us in advance of their plans to stage a protest on a central part of the campus.

However, a small minority of students, who were joined by others from outside the university, chose to protest by roaming freely around the campus, invading buildings, entrapping me and making many staff and visitors to our campus feel under threat.

These students' behaviour was an abuse of the freedom of speech we had sought to preserve.

Your comments on Professor Dewar's point of view are most welcome. It would also be good to hear from the protestors and academics - feel free to participate.

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