Threatened with disciplinary action

The ANU student newspaper has a response.

As many of you will be aware, the “Advice from Religion” infographic on the back page of Woroni, Edition 5 2013, caused a flurry of activity.  However, what you might not know is that over the course of a week, the Woroni board was twice summoned to the Chancelry, individually threatened with disciplinary action along with the authors of the piece, and informed that Woroni’s funding allocation could be compromised.

Threatened with disciplinary action…for what? It would help if we knew more about the cartoon, but so far I don’t.

As editors of a student publication, we have grown accustomed to receiving heated feedback from students and staff. However, in this instance the extent of interference with Woroni by the Chancelry was unprecedented.

The day following publication, the entire Woroni board was asked to attend a meeting with members of the ANU Chancelry, including Richard Baker, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Student Experience). The Chancelry wished to discuss the Woroni board’s response to a formal complaint submitted by the International Students Department.

In a later statement to Woroni, the Chancelry maintained that the article breached the “University rules” and the Australian Press Council Principles. Furthermore, the Chancelry commented that the “the University has a large international footprint and is mindful of maintaining its reputation of providing a welcoming environment for a diverse student and academic population.”

Meaning…what? That cartoons about Islam are especially insulting to foreign students? But if so, is that true? More so than cartoons about Catholicism for instance? And if it is true, is it really grounds for discipline and deletion? It sounds dubious.

The Chancelry’s position is that the piece posed a threat to the ANU’s reputation and security. “[I]n a world of social media, [there is] potential for material such as the article in question to gain attention and traction in the broader world and potentially harm the interests of the University and the university community.”

“This was most clearly demonstrated by the Jyllands- Posten cartoon controversy … and violent protests in Sydney on September 15 last year,” the Chancelry told Woroni.

In light of these concerns, the Chancelry asked for an apology and an official public retraction of the piece.

Ah. Now we know where we are. The mention of the Jyllands-Posten cartoons clarifies. We’re in the realm of violence and intimidation.

The J-P cartoons were not substantively insulting (except possibly to a long-dead “prophet”). The “controversy” about them was worked up by Islamist clerics. We’re in the realm of preventive caution in the face of violence. That’s a very bad reason to punish students who did nothing wrong.


  1. FresnoBob says

    That’s obscene. It’s one thing to be spineless in the face of imagined threat but quite another to punish someone for exposing your spinelessness.


  2. Joe says

    The content of the cartoon was apparently:

    In the April 16 edition of Woroni, authors Jamie Freestone, Mathew McGann and Todd Cooper posed the question, “How should I value women?”

    Their answers referenced Aisha, the prophet Mohammed’s nine-year-old wife, and described the 72 “houris” – women depicted in the Koran as large-bosomed virgins who are a reward in paradise – as a “rape fantasy”…

    (From here, quoting an article from The Australian that is behind a paywall.)

    I’m an ANU student, but I don’t read the Woroni (mainly because I’m rarely anywhere on campus where I’m likely to find a copy), so I haven’t seen the cartoon first hand, but past issues of the newspaper can be found here, with the religion jokes on the last page of the past 6 issues (excluding issue 5, of course)

  3. sailor1031 says

    “the University has a large international footprint and is mindful of maintaining its reputation of providing a welcoming environment for a diverse student and academic population.”

    I think this may explain it. Basically they’re saying this could be bad for business. ANU is a university with a budget problem that sees it’s way to growth through maximizing its international relations especially with SE Asia..

    ‘Nuff said!

  4. says

    Setar @4:

    Err, didn’t at least one of the J-P cartoons depict Mohammed with a bomb on his head? Or am I thinking of something else…

    Exactly – the person being ridiculed in that cartoon, if he even existed at all, is long-dead. Of course, there are people who are willing to take offense on behalf of a long-dead person, but that’s not the same thing as those people alive now having insults levelled against them personally

  5. says

    That sums up a lot of the motivation, I think, sailor1031 – finance.

    In addition, ANU is host to a number of academics with particularly strong anti-Gnu motivations – Ned Curthoys, serial whiner Tom Frame, and Gary Bouma. I can’t remember about Frame (I’ve got his book here – but I remember it for other reasons), Bouma and Curthoys have form for smearing atheists with unsubstantiated, or demonstrably false claims. All in the name of tolerance, of course.

    Orwellian, really.

  6. freemage says

    Actually, many of the J-P cartoons did not insult Mohammed, but his current followers–many of them don’t even depict the ‘prophet’ at all. And some of the ones that do are far from insulting. (The one that basically incorporated his face with the star-and-crescent pattern was, frankly, fairly artistic.)

  7. Omar Puhleez says

    Sailor @ 5:

    Better still for finances: the ANU could switch to being a Muslims only instution. Just think of it: AINU the Australian Islamic National University.

    With the $A exchange rate falling against most other currencies, this could be a great economic stimulus, attracting petrodollars like flies to a bush dunny.

    The odd compromise with certain academic traditions would have to be made, but let’s get our priorities right.

  8. says

    ANU Chancelry comments show us starkly the asymmetry involved with these violent reactionaries in question:
    >>maintaining its reputation of providing a welcoming environment for a diverse student and academic population

    Lefties defending diversity/academia forget the trajectory of both ideas is triggering defensive koranic tragedies.

    Yes we need these formal meetings about students fighting, but let’s not kid ourselves who’s bullying physically.

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