Students at the University of Queensland (UQ) have voted in a general meeting to oppose the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation’s attempts to set up a degree on their campus. The meeting attracted almost 500 students, which also saw a successful vote for students to maintain control of the replacement Schonell Theatre if it is demolished, as has been proposed by the UQ Senate.
The two votes taken at last night’s general meeting are the first since 1971, when students voted to go on strike for the duration of the Springboks rugby union tour during the period of South African apartheid.
The meeting was called in response to perceived indifference from university management. Students responded resoundingly, with reports of only eight students voting yes to the question “should UQ accept a deal with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation?”
Addressing the crowd on the Ramsay Centre, key organiser and UQ student union councillor, Priya De, argued “these people are not academics, they are politicians.”
UQ Liberals apparently planned to shut down the meeting by invoking a section of the regulations stipulating that student general meetings must cease if 50 students petition for a referendum, however this plan ultimately failed.
Amongst those who spoke in favour of the Centre was Kurt Tucker, a former President of the UQ Liberal National Club who resigned in 2017 after admitting that he would have joined the Nazi party had he lived in 1930s Germany.
Priya De told Honi that the meeting highlighted that “students can be mobilised to take on political questions collectively.” She notes however, that whilst the meeting was a resounding success, “the fight against Ramsay is not over. Even though the UQ Union, the National Tertiary Education Union, the Humanities Board of Studies and now a mass student assembly have rejected this course, the administration are intransigent.”
“We expect the UQ Senate will make their final decision on June 27, so we’re calling for a rowdy protest.”
The student vote comes at a time when frictions are emerging between the Paul Ramsay Foundation (which funds the Centre) and the Centre itself. Yesterday, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that the Foundation is in talks to sever ties with the Centre due to arguments over how the money gifted by Paul Ramsay should be spent.
Meanwhile, the University of Wollongong branch of the National Tertiary Education Union is taking the University to the Supreme Court over the Vice Chancellor’s decision to accelerate approval for Western Civilisation degree.
Closer to home, the University of Sydney has seen renewed engagement with the issue, with a well attended public forum last week entitled “Ramsay and the new academic racism.”
The coming weeks will prove crucial for the Ramsay Centre’s future.
Honi reached out to UQ Student Union President Georgia Millroy, however she did not reply in time for publication.