At midday this Monday, students walking down Eastern Avenue would have heard the cries of “Ramsay, fuck off” on their way to class. A snap rally was called last Wednesday by the convenors of the Autonomous Collective Against Racism (ACAR), who were seen holding a banner that read: “Fuck Nazis, smash the fash”.
The snap rally was intended to push back against covert forms of racism on campus, particularly in response to two articles published by Honi last week regarding a culture of Neo-Nazism on campus and a new development in the ongoing negotiations between the University of Sydney and the Ramsay Centre.
Last week, Honi published an exposé that detailed the activities of a neo-Nazi cell that is active on campus, involving members of the Liberal and National Parties. The investigation drew from years of evidenced Neo-Nazism on campus, from sieg heil salutes in student debates to reports of a student singing ‘He’s A Pisspot’ and toasting to Adolf Hitler in the middle of a lecture.
The rally drew a large crowd that consisted of campaigners primarily from the broad left bloc of the ongoing SRC elections. Present were campaigners for Grassroots, Switch, Pump, Left Action, and Activists Strike Back. Also present were campaigners for Fit for Honi. Among the speakers was SRC presidential candidate Liam Donohoe, who gave a speech condemning the Ramsay Centre.
Though the snap rally primarily platformed student speakers, academic and NTEU member Bronwyn Winter afforded the crowd a glimpse into the impact of the Ramsay Centre on staff experiences.
ACAR Convenor Swapnik Sanagavarapu spoke poignantly about the presence of British colonialism in India, highlighting the devastation that lingers to this day: “British colonialism stole 44 trillion pounds from the Indian subcontinent…took it from one of the richest parts of the world and underdeveloped it systematically ”
Tensions in the air were palpable as speeches continued; the rally had been set up in between a stall held by the University of Sydney Catholic Society (CathSoc) and a Boost campaign stall for the upcoming SRC elections.
In particular, members of CathSoc shouted in protest in response to Sanagavarapu’s condemnation of the pro-life movement; one member offered to debate Sanagavarapu on the matter to which he received the response “Fuck off”. There was also a degree of antagonistic filming on the fringes of the rally.
After months of silence, with reports in March of ongoing negotiations between the Ramsay Centre and the University, Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence proposed the introduction of a course in Western Tradition as a major in the Bachelor of Advanced Studies degrees, Honi reported last week.
SRC Education Officer James Newbold spoke on the dangers of the new proposal to introduce the major in Western Tradition: “They are targeting the most privileged students at this university…they want to reach 1,100 students ”
If anything is revealed by Honi’s exposé of the culture of Neo-Nazism at USyd, it is that casually vicious racism is alive and well in university environments that are commonly believed to be inherently left-wing. Additionally, if a major in Western Tradition is seen through, its induction would mean the implementation of an academic endorsement of the very ideologies that justify the violence of Western colonialism.