Murdoch University has withdrawn their financial claim against Associate Professor Gerd Schröder-Turk who raised concerns about the University’s recruitment standards on the ABC’s Four Corners program last year.
Schröder-Turk said that Murdoch was accepting students with inadequate English skills, effectively exploiting them in their search for profit, and in turn compromising both academic integrity and student welfare at the institution.
Following the broadcast, Murdoch took steps to remove Schröder-Turk from the University Senate where he sits as an elected staff representative. In response, the mathematics lecturer launched action under Western Australia’s whistleblower protection laws, alleging that Murdoch had carried out “detrimental action against the applicant after he made an appropriate disclosure of public interest information.”
Murdoch then proceeded by launching a counterclaim, alleging that in disclosing information to the media, the academic broke his fiduciary duties and caused significant reputational damage.
Academics in Australia and abroad expressed outrage at the University’s decision with more than 30,000 people signing a petition calling on the University to drop their counterclaim against him.
Schröder-Turk said he was “greatly relieved” by the decision in a statement via his lawyers.
“The counter-claim by the university has caused me and my young family a great deal of unnecessary stress,” he said. “I have always acted in the best interest of the university, its students and its staff, and have done so in very difficult circumstances.”
“However, my concerns about the welfare of students remain.”
The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has also welcomed the University’s decision, and called on the University to drop their attempts to remove Schröder-Turk from the University Senate.
NTEU General Secretary Matthew McGowan said that it was “patently absurd to think that a university would sue a staff member for millions of dollars in damages.”
Schröder-Turk’s lawyer Josh Bornstein described the saga as “an unprecedented attack on a whistleblower in this country.”