Controversial academic Tim Anderson has been sacked by the University of Sydney following the suspension of his employment in December 2018. The decision was made last Friday by a 2-1 majority through an employment review panel.
Anderson was suspended in late 2018 for circulating lecture materials which, according to a letter from the Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Stephen Garton, contained an “altered image of the Israeli flag” featuring a “cropped swastika.” The materials were allegedly used in ‘Human Rights and Development’ (ECOP3017).
The panel that handed down Anderson’s termination of employment included Janice McLeay, a dispute management specialist and former Industrial Relations Commissioner, Professor Philippa Pattison, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Education at USyd, and Dr Neil Maclean, a senior lecturer in anthropology. Maclean was the only member of the panel to vote against terminating Anderson’s employment.
The panel’s majority determined that Anderson’s conduct amounted to “serious misconduct” under the University’s enterprise agreement, and added with reference to the altered Israeli flag that it would be “reasonable to find the image offensive.”
Maclean argued against the panel’s decision, opting instead to defend Anderson’s conduct on the grounds of academic freedom. He asserted that it was “consistent with the requirements of professional judgement that staff formulate their own concrete criteria for the exercise of academic freedom.”
A University spokesperson relayed to Honi that the University would maintain its position that “Dr Anderson’s continued publication of material that included an image of the Nazi swastika over the Israeli flag on social media and in lecture slides for students was disrespectful and offensive,” emphasising that “staff must also meet their obligation to engage in debate in a civil manner, and in accordance with our policies and codes of conduct.”
In a public statement, Anderson warned that the University’s “censorial abuse” would send a “cold chill” through the University, and accused Garton of practicing “reactionary politics dressed up as ethics.” In an email exchange with Garton prior to his suspension in October, Anderson accused the Provost of “clumsy, unprincipled attempts to act as political censor.”
This marks the end of Anderson’s twenty year tenure at the University, which in recent years has been marred by controversies largely relating to his political stances. Anderson has repeatedly expressed public support for the Assad regime in Syria. Last year, Anderson visited North Korea with former colleague Jay Tharappel, a voyage which instigated a succession of University inquiries into his conduct alongside increased scrutiny of his personal beliefs.
Anderson’s decision to defend Tharappel for his wearing of a Houthi Resistance badge in Beijing as part of the same trip formed the basis of an initial University investigation concerning Anderson in August of 2018. The badge read “God is the greatest, death to America, death to Israel, curse on the Jews, victory to Islam,” and was argued by Anderson to be symbolic of Yemeni resistance.
Friday’s ruling crystallises the University’s various investigations into Anderson’s conduct. In his public statement, Anderson noted that he is in consultation with the National Tertiary Education Union with respect to a legal appeal of the University Review Committee’s decision. An online petition to reinstate Anderson has already begun to circulate.
More to come.
This article was amended at 9:39pm on Tuesday, 12 February 2019 to include comment from a University spokesperson.