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University Woes: The Managerial Class Gets Uppity

The university, in a global sense, is passing into a managerial oblivion. There are a few valiant holdouts, but they have the luxury of history, time, and learning. Cambridge and Oxford, for instance, still boast traditional academics, soaking erudition, and education as something more than a classroom brawl of the mind. They can barricade themselves against the regulatory disease that has made imbeciles of administrators and cretins of the pretend academic class. They can, for instance, rely on their colleges to fight the university, a concept so utterly alien to others. Across Europe, the management structures wear heavily. In the United States, the corporate university took hold decades ago. Academics are retiring, committing suicide, and going on gardening leave.

In Australia, a more serious problem has become evident: You cannot expose the obvious. You cannot, for instance, expose the evident plagiarism of colleagues. You cannot expose corruption within the university, notably the sort that celebrates graft over industry. You cannot discuss the decline in academic standards, or the purposeful lowering of admission levels. The obvious, in a certain sense, is that standards will be lowered if there is a need for largesse and revenue. The natural impulse of fat cat Vice-Chancellors is to cry foul that the government of the day has not forked out from the taxpayer’s wallet. Pay the university; fund more places. Give us more funding, because we are teaching and research institutions.

The problem with this dubious formulation is that funding a university in its current, monstrous form is tantamount to giving a drug lord a state subsidy for a pool, a perk, or a prostitute. (A suitable doctoral dissertation: Compare the rhetoric of Pablo Escobar with Australian university management from 2000 to 2019. You won’t be disappointed). Vice-Chancellors of the university world are white collar criminals on par with bankers, and, like those bankers, claim they perform an invaluable service. When they fail, they are simply moved on to another institution, leaving their sludge in ample supply.

The pro-vice chancellors, the deputies, the deputy-deputies and the deputies under them, are co-conspirators in an enterprise that robs students blind and plunders the goodwill of academic staff. Never has there been a better case to start putting these types into re-education camps, the very sort that they wish academics who disagree with them to attend. Apropos on that point, it is notable that universities in Australia love sending disagreeing and disagreeable academics to counsellors hired by the university itself. Thought-crime thrives down under.

Be that as it may, the recent news that Murdoch University, a squalid outpost of obscurantism located in Western Australia, has decided to counter-sue an academic for exposing the lowering of academic standards, should come as confirmation. How utterly revolting to expose such a squalid secret! How revolting to believe that standards should be kept! (The issue here, as much as anything else, is to put to bed the snake oil language of being a “global educator”. A local non-educator will suffice).

Federal Court documents have done more than reveal that the university is seeking compensation from Associate Professor Gerd Schröder-Turk for millions lost since he appeared on a Four Corners program in May discussing the plight of failing Indian students. It involves a counter-action against the academic, who initially filed an action under the Fair Work Act to restrain the university from disciplining him for discussing the lowering of academic standards.

The university has been rightfully punished by a decline in student numbers but insists that it “maintains admission standards consistent with the national standards for international students, along with English language requirements in line with those across the sector.” In short, the Murdoch argument is that made by those who think failure sells: they all do it, so why pick on us?

Murdoch University’s overpaid VC, Eeva Leinonen, claims to refute (is it not confute?) “the claims made by the ABC” in an email sent to students after the Four Corners program aired. She babbles incorrigibly, resorting to those nonsenses about employability and global reputation for a university that struggles, just, to be local. “In 2018, Murdoch was ranked number one in Australia for graduate employability. Employers value the knowledge and skills that you have learnt at Murdoch University.” (Leinonen is yet another example of how corruption, to be pure, needs to be imported – she cut her teeth as Vice-President in Education at King’s College, University of London).

Even Australia’s restrained whistle-blowing commentators have been a touch troubled by the arid and vicious reasoning of Murdoch University. The university, as a realm of academic protection, is a piecemeal matter in Australia. But modern management, being itself a high-functioning criminal class, has made it imperative to cast an eye on protections for those who blow that all too rare whistle on plagiarism, charlatanism, shallow standards and good, down-to-earth theft.

A. J. Brown, who wears the rather rusted crown of whistle-blowing authority in a country that has found the practice irksome, ventured the obvious in his assessment: the action by Murdoch University will stifle whistle-blowing. “I’m not aware of any situation where a university, or really… any sort of organisation, has counter-sued the whistle-blower for damages.”

Murdoch University has revealed some important, and cheery results, for those who believe that the academy, and university, remains a place of challenge and learning rather than numbers and padding. The institution, in an effort to target Shröder-Turk, is full of complaint: shovelling amounts out for investigations by tertiary regulators; lamenting the upgrade of the Immigration Risk Rating by the Department of Home Affairs. Schröder-Turk should be given a knighthood.

What is needed, in the immediate future, is a redrafting of laws in states and the Commonwealth that permits full, iron-sheeted immunity to those who expose managerial corruption. This case shows the quibbling and the lack of clarity of those who engage in what is called “public interest disclosure.” University academics fit uncomfortably within that skimpy bit of legislation known as the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013, but Shröder-Turk has attempted to apply it. (The provisions are so miserably weak and vague as to be ineffectual and, as the court documents note, he was “largely unsuccessful in his interlocutory application”). Nor can they avail themselves of the Corporate protections recently passed in Australia, exaggerated in their protections, but nonetheless important for having taken place.

What is astonishing is the free rein given to universities to punish and discipline their personnel for a disgusting tendency, namely, to have, and defend, principles central to teaching and research. How dare these learned types stand up for principled admission standards? Care about grades? Worry about performance? Away with those hideous farts, those people who refuse to play the corporate ball game.

We so happen to disturb an age where the university, as it has become, should be abolished. We await the madly dedicated Martin Luther in academic dress and garb to target his theses with venom against the Papacy of Management; we await the sit-ins of keen students, aware of thought, who have decided to be more than drugged consumers, leading the militant protests directed to learning, the determined opposition to expose the corporate hypocrisy of this dying animal. (Academics won’t, cowardice being their poesy and milky blood). Best kill it off now, and put us, and everybody else, out of a collective misery that serves to rob taxpayer, learner and instructor.

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8 comments

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  1. wam

    When we treat a web like a linear we invariably fuckup.
    When the worst man to be PM decided to keep kids, whose education level ran out at grade 10, in secondary schools which could not cater for them for two extra years. Then hiring primary trained staff with no maths, science or literature reducing the standards of expectations for grade 12 certificates to less than grade 3 naplan. Teaching and nursing degrees require minimum entry requirements little more than write a name on top of the paper.
    Then some idiot invented HECS and gave vice chancellors access to the trough of government cash. The drastic dumbing down of year 12 allowed universities to get bums on seats. There must be 10s of thousands of uni students barely literate and functionally enumerate, thousands of teaching and nursing students who will never get a teaching or nursing job and all earning debt and what will that be by 2040??
    What vice chancellor with unlimited cash wouldn’t splash? Are a few chickens coming home to roost when the greedy bastards are overstretched???

  2. Kerri

    Whenever profits or shares become important, regardless of the industry, corruption follows and greed rules.
    Ethics be damned.

  3. paul walter

    Seem to remember the 4 Corners.

    Wasn’t it about a racket created by academics and recruiters to ensure students from North India got admitted on bogus info that side stepped poor qualifying results and language problems, funnelled through by folk at the uni itself?

    It’s been a while, but I do recall some gymnastic ducking and weaving from a number of academic folk include those very high up in the food chain, completely at odds with a carefully presented case proffered by another academic.

    Like a Morse episode it was, complete with nasally accents.

  4. #Istandswithgerd

    Unfortunately for Murdoch management, even if they get rid of Gerd they will discover that the academic staff are Gerds all the way down.

  5. Duncan Farrow

    As one of three academics that appeared on the referenced 4 Corners program I enjoyed and endorse the sentiments expressed here. I particularly liked “squalid outpost of obscurantism”.
    My colleague Gerd is being sued for damages and could use as much support as he can get.
    There is a change.org petition here. Please sign, comment and share.
    https://www.change.org/p/murdoch-university-justice-for-gerd
    There’s also an NTEU campaign page where you can send your thoughts to Murdoch University’s Chancellor and Visitor.
    http://www.nteu.org.au/istandwithgerd

    If they succeed with Gerd, am I next?

  6. paul walter

    Many thanks, Dr Farrow.

    I would have rejoiced at Dr, Hallett’s assessment if it had not had such diabolical implications.

    I cant see how Murdoch University can win any case against whistleblower Professor Gerd Shroeder-Turk if the timeline and facts coincide closely with what I saw on the 4 Corners, of which only the memory thereof has returned to me, the comment from Dr Hallett did ring LOUD bells though.

    I can only presume the suit brought by the University is brought on the basis of some technicality alien to the substance to do with some sort of obscure disclosure agreement imposed on academic to prevent exposure of malfeasances deemed embarrassing by the University.

    We seem to then becoming involved in the weird world of Americanised and Dutton/Porterised (property?) political laws adopted over time here by governments to do with FOI, commercial in confidence etc, aimed at hindering the necessary disclosure of truths that ensure transparency and openness as prior to self interest and the illusion of property rights against the tangibility of a proven truth.

    Is it that thing though a nonsense is being pursued by those caught with fingers in the cookie jar as a slap suit; an apparatus to injure some who exposed a wrong.

    I think the VC (?) and others should have been more concerned with improving the opportunities for learning for students, lest the public comes to regard university administrators as, arguably, small minded, avaricious and vindictive charlatans who operate against the basic precepts and mechanisms of the didactic process.

    What a gift 4 Corners has been in the Defence of Civilisation against recidivist and deteriorating to Miocene impulses.

  7. paul walter

    https://iview.abc.net.au/show/media-watch

    Is it just coincidental or a symptom of widespread concernt that tonight’s Media Watch felt moved to do a segment on the issue presented at this thread?

    The interesting point MW makes is that whistleblowers are still hunted out despite whether their claims on substantial issues are accurate or not.

    The entire 15 minutes is up because, dealing with issues to do with climate change demonstrations and the sheer ugliness of tabloid media in reporting climate change issues as well as protests against the factors involving climate change and associated drought, makes it a whole quarter of an hour of viewing worthwhile for people who visit AIM to find out more about issues that AIM realises have substantial importance for the country, rather than the idiocies of commercial TV, an example of which is provided in a segment concerning the massive fuss created over who might have been appointed as judges for a food show on one of the networks.

  8. Lambchop Simnel

    Btw, there is a petition and donations, if you want, to continue this fight for fairness against rigid and possibly corrupt power.

    Check Dr Farrow’s linx.

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