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IT IS the university degree so contentious that the Prime Minister has gotten involved. But this is why it’s become a laughing stock. OPINION THE Australian National University (ANU) has been in month-long talks with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation about creating a degree in Western civilisation. Last week, however, ANU vice-chancellor Brian Schmidt announced the university had pulled out of discussions with the controversial think tank. Then on Thursday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull weighed in on the issue, announcing he would seek an explanation from Prof Schmidt….. “ I’m a student at the ANU and I can tell you that this controversy has divided politically active students at the university”
If the project went ahead, I’m confident that the so-called “students of Western civilisation” would have been mocked their entire undergraduate careers. The whole degree would have been ridiculed as brain training for budding conservative commentators and Liberal politicians. That’s simply untenable. An academic program that wants to survive can’t be plagued by accusations of political bias…… But over the past few days, a backlash to the backlash has happened. The ANU’s Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies was dragged into the debate, slammed for accepting donations from the governments of Dubai, Iran and Turkey. To many, the ANU’s rejection of the Ramsay Centre seemed hypocritical in light of these past donations. Is the ANU willing to accept donations from Islamic governments but not conservative Australian citizens?.... The virtues of Western civilisation are so contentious and heavily debated that if you’re going to create a degree in it, you have to portray some level of impartiality.
The Ramsay Centre needs to go back to the drawing board and rethink its strategy. I actually wish them luck. Because unlike my fellow students, I don’t think a degree in Western civilisation is necessarily a bad thing. And neither does Prof Schmidt. There are some radical students who hate the idea simply because they want to silence any pro-Western message. They actually share a lot in common with the Ramsay Centre: they’re not opposed to bias, they just want their own bias to reign supreme.