The New International Bookshop unreservedly condemns La Trobe University’s suspension of academic, activist, and founder of the Safe School’s programme Roz Ward.
Ms Ward’s work with the Safe Schools programme has undoubtedly saved the lives of many young people, and should be applauded – not condemned.
Ms Ward’s private comment on Facebook, expressing criticism of the Australian Flag, is a perfectly legitimate expression of free-speech, whether one agrees with it or not, and she should be free to make it. The ability for academics to speak freely without fear of retribution and impoverishment must be a cornerstone of any just, open and democratic society.
Ms Ward’s suspension highlights an alarming trend of increasingly authoritarian and dictatorial management policies within universities and the wider society, which must be opposed by all those concerned with justice and democracy. The very concept of the public sphere, from which the Agora of La Trobe University takes its name, everywhere is under assault as the neoliberal revolution proceeds apace.
The New International Bookshop is run with the goal of fostering critical debate and discussion about Australian society and politics as a means to creating a more just society. Such a goal is incompatible with a society in which academics, and the wider public, cannot challenge entrenched modes of thinking and advance political arguments that differ from a mainstream ‘consensus’.
Therefore, the New International Bookshop declares its unreserved support for Roz Ward and the Safe Schools programme, and calls on La Trobe University management to immediately reinstate Roz Ward, offer her a formal apology, and enshrine academic freedom by abolishing the vague clauses that allow university management to suspend staff or students for bringing the university into ‘disrepute’ – clauses which give university management a de facto ability to act however they see fit. We stand with Roz Ward