By Freya Pinney
WOLLONGONG — The appointment of Call to Australia (CTA) leader Fred Nile to the University of Wollongong Council has created outrage here. On June 6, 1000 students attended a meeting to debate the issue; three days later 200 took their opposition to the council meeting.
While Nile failed to show, students made their views known. Representatives from the Education Action Collective, National Union of Students and the Student Representative Council (SRC) addressed the protest between chants of "Hey hey, ho ho, Fred Nile's got to go" and held placards reading "Rile Nile — defend education", "Lesbians and Gays on campus — not Fred" and "Banish the Bigot — Free, safe Abortion on Demand".
A unanimous motion was passed calling on the university council to do everything in its power to stop Nile from remaining on it and to forward all protest messages to the state government.
The campaign against Nile's appointment by the Carr Labor government was launched on May 24 by students, staff and local trade unions. Staff, students and members of the local community faxed, phoned and wrote protest letters to members of parliament. Despite this, Nile was appointed to the position on May 30.
A newly formed group, "the freedom of ideas movement", led by the president of the youth wing of the CTA, is supporting Nile's appointment. Using a free speech argument, its main focus has been to attack the Students Representative Council, labelling it "anti-Christian".
But Student Life, a prominent Christian group on campus, has countered by organising other Christians to oppose the appointment.
Nile is renowned for his opposition to the free speech of left organisations, women's and gay and lesbian groups. The campaign is not trying to stop Nile's right to address students, or even preach, but is opposing his appointment on the grounds that he is unrepresentative of majority opinion in Australia with his opposition to women's and gay and lesbian rights.
Added to that is the fact that Nile, having had no experience in university education, is not qualified for the position.
On the 18-person council, students have only one elected representative for 12,000 students. There are only two staff representatives for 2000 staff. The government has two representatives and the other positions are held by the chancellor and vice chancellor (VC) and representatives of local big business.
The South Coast Trades and Labor Council has endorsed the campaign and said it would organise a picket of the university administration building if Nile steps on to campus. Miscellaneous Workers Union organiser Noreen Hay attended the June 9 protest, and the academics' union has made a formal protest to the council and VC.
The VC, Gerard Setton, who addressed the June 9 rally, stated that Nile's appointment was a state government decision over which the university council had no jurisdiction.
The university can remove Nile from the position if he misses three council meetings in a row. The next meeting is in two months' time. At the June 9 protest, students vowed to protest at all future council meetings, with the aim of keeping Nile off campus, and to continue to keep the pressure on the state government.
To get involved in the campaign call the SRC on (042) 214-201 or Resistance on (042) 262-010.