Petition to Save Philosophy & other Humanities at ACU

As reported earlier this week, Australian Catholic University is currently planning to shutter its philosophical research center, the Dianoia Institute, and eliminate or make cuts to other humanities programs.

The AU$226 million Saint Teresa of Kolkata Building at Australian Catholic University, completed this year.

A petition has now been launched for people to register their opposition to this plan.

You can sign it here.

While there have been other petitions on this issue, “this is the crucial one,” says a faculty member at ACU.

It calls the plan “a direct assault on the humanities at ACU,” and says, in part:

We are calling upon our colleagues across the globe to register their protest at this anti-intellectual and inhumane proposal. Many of the affected staff members were enticed to move to Australia from abroad; many gave up secure employment elsewhere to come; and many came with dependents in tow. Some only arrived last year. And yet now they are being shown the door. But it is not only personal lives that will be destroyed if the draft change plan is enacted. The damage that is already being done to the university’s reputation in the eyes of scholars and prospective students will take years to overcome.

The text of the petition provides some information the cuts, noting the lack of a “coherent academic rationale for the combination of positions slated for elimination,” as well the process that led to them:

No one in leadership in any of the affected organizational units were consulted prior to the release of the draft change plan, nor is there any evidence that the administration seriously considered any of the feedback provided by staff during the consultation period over the month of August (a legal requirement according to ACU’s Enterprise Bargaining Agreement).

The authors of the petition also urge its signatories to directly contact those involved in the decision of whether to implement the plan:

The architects of the draft change plan are Professor Skrbis ([email protected]), Professor Khan ([email protected]), Deputy Provost Chris Lonsdale ([email protected]), and Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research Phil Parker ([email protected]), none of whom have expertise in the humanities. If you would like to support humanities at ACU, please contact these individuals to register your concern and sign the present petition to call on the university administration to reconsider this ill-advised plan. The period of consultation on the draft change plan closes on 26 September, at which point the full list of signatures will be sent to the four aforementioned administrators along with the ACU Senate.

Further details are on the petition page.

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8 months ago

Whatever happens, it has been gratifying to see so much support from so many quarters. The strength of the public outcry from world-leading scholars and institutions is an ironic testament to the success of the previous ACU administration’s research intensification strategy: ACU has succeeded beyond all expectations in hiring talented scholars, networked with leading universities across the world, capable of putting forward clear and compelling refutations of managerial sophistry and misdirection.

8 months ago

I want to again thank everyone for their support but encourage them to focus on sending letters to the ministers of education and/or immigration to reinforce the messages that this is outside of the norms of higher-ed, that this harms not just ACU but Australian higher-ed by showing that an offer of continued employment with a visa is not an offer of a stable job, and that this harms graduate students (HRD students) by depriving them of a stable place to do work with adequate supervision.

If you want to contact the person responsible for visas (great strategy especially for people in Australia) emphasise that ACU is wasting a precious resource and was not being truthful in applying for the visas in the first instance since they are shedding large number of visa holders (often in less than 24 months) without any selection criteria or review that explains why they were being made redundant. They could not have been vital to the university if the university can dispense with them without offering any clear rationale as part of the change plan for doing so.

We know the petitions will not do anything to move the administration who are treating all letters as spam (their words!)

If you want to write a letter of support (and we have received hundreds), please direct them to the minister of education, the minister of immigration, AND be sure to CC change — the administration has to make a record of and respond to emails sent to the change address. The others will be binned. (They are a contemptuous lot, but they stressed during a town hall (at which we cannot speak but can submit questions in a chat function) that this time is very hard for them. Make it harder. Hit the government inboxes demanding that ministers act to protect students, staff, and the industry. Maybe this will produce a response.

To: [email protected]
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To the Hon. Jason Clare MP Minister for Education,
The Australian Catholic University has proposed disestablishing 53 positions in the humanities and the health sciences (as discussed in The Guardian and Times Higher Education). This unfortunate development not only erodes trust in the university’s commitments to its academic staff but also has wider implications for the Australian higher education industry. It threatens to devalue offers of continued employment, posing a significant challenge in recruiting and retaining top-tier academics, which are crucial to maintaining the sector’s global competitiveness. ACU’s behavior is out of keeping with the norms in higher-ed where offers of continued positions are typically assumed to be routes to stable employment.
We should add that the proposed redundancies risk undermining the integrity of PhD programs, as prospective and current PhD students may feel betrayed by universities that recruit them and make their supervisors redundant without regard for their training or career. It is imperative that these concerns are addressed, and measures are taken to safeguard the reputation of the Australian higher education industry while holding institutions like Australian Catholic University accountable for their actions.
We hope that you will contact ACU’s administration to communicate the negative impact that these proposed redundancies would have on the broader sector. While ACU’s reputation has suffered some damage already, your intervention can help them change course, protecting ACU and Australia’s higher-ed sector from further harm caused by the administration’s erratic behavior.

To: [email protected]

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