QUT threatens free speech

May 11, 2007

Well-known left-wing academic Dr Gary MacLennan and his Queensland University of Technology colleague John Hookham are facing possible suspension or dismissal without pay on charges of "straight misconduct" over their public criticism of a PhD project approved of by the QUT ethics committee.

The project — a six-part comedy series featuring two intellectually disabled men being put in embarrassing situations so as to be made the objects of others' amusement and ridicule — is titled "Laughing at the Disabled: Creating Comedy that Confronts, Offends and Entertains".

The two academics' "crime" was to write an article in the April 11 Australian newspaper, entitled "Philistine relativism at the gates", that began: "A time has come when you have to say, 'Enough!', when you can no longer put up with the misanthropic and amoral trash produced under the rubric of postmodernist, post-structuralist thought. The last straw, the defining moment, came for us when we attended a recent PhD confirmation" at QUT that approved the PhD project.

"And now, when we say that in civilised society it is repugnant to mock the disabled, most academics in our field appear to disagree with us", MacLennan and Hookham wrote.

In response to the move to charge them, 50 QUT students, academics and other supporters gathered at the QUT Kelvin Grove campus on May 8 to protest this attack on free speech.

The Save Gary and John Collective has called for messages of protest to be sent to the QUT vice-chancellor, Professor Peter Coaldrake, and is organising another protest rally at QUT Kelvin Grove on May 15. A rally will also be held on May 17 at the Gardens Point campus outside the disciplinary committee meeting.

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