Staff kept in the dark about Wollongong Uni’s Ramsay degree

The University of Wollongong enters Ramsay deal without consulting Academic Senate, staff or students.

A graphic showing the Ramsay Centre logo and the University of Wollongong logo with a hand-shake emoji in between

The University of Wollongong (UoW) has failed to inform staff members and students about its recently concluded negotiations with the Ramsay Centre to establish a new degree in Western Civilisation. Honi understands that staff were only informed about talks with the Ramsay Centre last Friday, after a deal had already been signed.

Dr Marcelo Svirsky, a staff member in the School of Humanities and Social Enquiry spoke to Honi about the opacity of the proceedings.

“Although I am a member of Senate, I am not aware of any official discussion of the proposal in an open forum at the University,” he said.

It is also unclear whether the University of Wollongong Council was consulted prior to the deal between UoW and the Ramsay Centre. According to Section 16 of the The University of Wollongong Act 1989, the UoW Council has powers to “provide such courses, and confer such degrees … as it thinks fit.” If this is the case, there’s a possibility that the UoW Council could vote against any deal with the Ramsay Centre to create a degree in Western Civilisation. Additionally, if UoW’s deal with the Ramsay Centre is deemed to be a commercial activity, it would require the Council’s approval to be finalised.

Dr Andre Brett, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in History at UoW, recently stated that he had only been made aware of the University’s failure via Twitter, and that his colleagues in more senior positions had also been unaware of any negotiations between UoW and the Ramsay Centre.

Dr Andre Brett's tweet: "I am a staff member of the faculty that will host this centre, and because the announcement is guaranteed to be controversial, i want to say one thing before the insults roll in: the negotiations were conducted in such secrecy that I found out the news via Twitter."

Dr Bronwin Carlson's tweet: "As a former staff member of the mostly decimated Indigenous Studies program @UOW and an alumni I fail to see how this is a moment to be proud. #Shameful" Chloe Rafferty, the president of UoW’s student association WUSA, commented on the University’s failure to seek input from staff and students.

“It’s a real outrage … the fact that staff and students were not even consulted, that it was negotiated in secret, shows that the Vice-Chancellor was aware there would be significant opposition,” she told Honi.

The highly publicised negotiations between the University of Sydney and the Ramsay Centre for a proposed degree in Western Civilisation have attracted significant backlash, with the Ramsay Centre accused not only of threatening academic independence, but also of actively supporting racist ideals. Subsequently, groups such as Staff Against Ramsay, NTEU Against Ramsay and Keep Ramsay out of USyd have actively campaigned against the Ramsay Centre at USyd. However, UoW’s decision to withhold all information about its negotiations with the Ramsay Centre have functionally erased the possibility of any similar form of protest or opposition occurring on their campus.

Whilst the exact details of the deal between UoW and the Ramsay Centre are yet to be revealed, the UoW is expected to receive more than $50 million over the next eight years from the Ramsay Centre. However, the likelihood of such plans materialising may be affected by imminent student protest as well as decisions made by the UoW Council.

The National Tertiary Education Union released a public statement today, condemning the “secret deal” between UoW and the Ramsay Centre.
“Given the great controversy surrounding the proposal to establish the Ramsay Centre at other institutions, colleagues are shocked they have not been consulted prior to the decision being made,” said Associate Professor Georgine Clarsen, President of the NTEU UoW Branch.

“Extensive internal collegial processes are available to the Vice-Chancellor for this purpose. Other colleagues have noted the disregard for the extensive existing expertise of UOW staff in the areas of the proposed Degree.”

The UoW did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication.

More to come.