The report outlines how former Chief Justice, the Hon Robert French’s model code for the protection of freedom of speech and academic freedom can be adopted by the University by amending its current Charter of Academic Freedom.
Mr French said the work on his model code at the University of Sydney had been “careful, thoughtful and thorough” and noted that “its response represents one useful model that may assist other universities and the result is entirely consistent with my hope that the Code would provide a non-prescriptive basis for reform in this difficult area.”
The guarantee of freedom of speech for our staff, students and visitors is something we’ve always taken seriously but it’s important to be vigilant.
University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence said one of the fundamental roles of a university was to be a place where ideas can be freely discussed, including those that were controversial or unpopular.
“The guarantee of freedom of speech for our staff, students and visitors is something we’ve always taken seriously at the University of Sydney but it’s important to be vigilant. Mr French’s review provided us with an opportunity to assess the way we promote and protect those freedoms and I thank the group involved for their methodical and sensible report,” Dr Spence said.
The report’s recommendations include:
The report also recommends renaming the current Charter, the Charter of Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom and says the University should undertake a review of its non-statutory rules, codes of conduct and policies to ensure they are consistent with the provisions of the new Charter, if the Group’s recommendations are endorsed by the University’s Academic Board and ultimately approved by its Senate.
The Academic Board is due to discuss the report on 5 November.
The report was written by a group of senior staff from the University of Sydney including the University’s General Counsel, Richard Fisher; Professor Anne Twomey; Professor Lisa Jackson Pulver; Associate Professor Tony Masters and representatives from the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), Student Representative Council (SRC), Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association (SUPRA), the principals of the affiliated residential colleges and the University’s Human Resources Office.