Rally backs free speech at QUT


On May 28, 30 people picketed an administration building at the Queensland University of Technology s Gardens Point campus to support Dr Gary MacLennan, a long-time radical activist and academic at QUT, who was facing disciplinary charges over his criticism of a PhD film project mocking disabled people.

Banners and posters calling for defence of free speech at QUT were displayed on the steps of the building. One placard read: 'Market 'values' drive Creative Industries research: Human dignity is sacrificed: Staff upholding dignity must go: Shame QUT shame."

The QUT Creative Industries faculty is located at the university's Kelvin Grove campus and QUT boasts that it is "Australia's first site dedicated to creative experimentation and commercial development" of academic research.

The protesters gathered signatures on a petition calling for support for MacLennan and his colleague, Dr John Hookham, who was facing similar charges the following day. The protesters also marched around the campus chanting slogans of support for free speech and for the rights of the disabled.

The charges of misconduct arose from public criticism MacLennan and Hookham made of the university s confirmation of a PhD thesis, consisting of a film research project originally entitled, "Laughing At the Disabled: Creating Comedy that Confronts, Offends and Entertains". The title was later amended to "Laughing With the Disabled", which would appear to admit the basic problem with the project.

MacLennan and Hookham are now awaiting the results of their disciplinary hearings. A research student at QUT has since been threatened with charges arising from his making of a film about the proceedings against the two academics.

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