Academic Freedom Threats Around The World: Australia, Denmark, Gaza

January 2006

Australia - Fraud, Lies and Deception: How a University Defrauds Taxpayers

Kathe Boehringer

If lawyer George Newhouse is crowing today about preventing the publication of an academic article on the White Australia Policy by my colleague Drew Fraser, universities won’t be. Vice-Chancellor of Deakin University Sally Walker has destroyed, in a single mad moment of political correctness, the basis on which taxpayer-funded support for university research stands.

Her direction to the Deakin University Law Review not to publish Fraser’s article - which it had invited, subjected to peer review and, after the author’s changes, accepted - indicates conclusively that publication now depends upon managerial assessment not independent assessment by academic peers.

The bulk of federal government funds are directed to Australian universities on a per student basis. But an additional, significant annual flow of funds is based upon each university’s research, much of which appears in peer reviewed publications. In these circumstances, the most important function by far of the peer review process is its capacity to guarantee taxpayers that published research achieves, pace “Casablanca”, more than a round-up of the usual suspects.

Peer review requires assessors, on their academic honour, to find genuine merit - for example new findings, new theories, new applications, and so on - in submitted articles. Every academic knows the significance of a favourable peer review leading to publication is financial in nature: it is the condition upon which cold, hard, cash will be funnelled to the author’s sponsoring institution by the federal government. For a university, peer reviewed publications conduce not simply to the institution’s reputation to attract funds and students but, significantly, to its financial resources.

Question: In what circumstances, then, will a university manager feel it necessary to kill the goose that lays these golden eggs?

Answer: When managerial control is required to suppress discussion of the taboo subject of racial differences.

This cautionary tale begins with Drew Fraser’s invited article. He utilised the well-known paradigm of “racial realism” that now informs the work of many scientists and social scientists in the United States and Europe. Racial realism, based on new genetic and paleo-anthropological research, rejects the egalitarian dogma that race is only skin deep. It contends that racial differences are real, not social constructs, and that an understanding of how races differ in cognitive and athletic ability, temperament and behaviour is obviously relevant to a wide range of policy - for example health, education and criminal justice - issues.

Two reviewers recommended publication, and suggested amendments. The author then submitted changes and additions and the article was accepted. As the issue was heading to the printer, lawyer George Newhouse, on behalf of the Sudanese community, threatened to sue Deakin University on the basis that the [sight unseen] article was unlawful on grounds of racial vilification.

Section 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act provides a clear exemption for acts done “reasonably and in good faith … (b) in the course of … publication … made … for any genuine academic, artistic or scientific purpose ...” Nonetheless, legal counsel advice was that publication would expose Deakin University to legal action. On that basis, Vice Chancellor Walker - with, perhaps, one eye on possible cost of legal action and another on the financial significance of fee-paying overseas students - waived the opportunity to test the protections offered to university publications which tackle racial issues reasonably and in good faith, for purposes of academic discussion.

The Vice-Chancellor’s action must set some curly questions for the entire political class, government and opposition alike. The racial vilification regime is rife with deception and fraud. The Attorney-General could be asked why the s 18D exemptions fail to operate as clearly intended, thus deceiving us about their capacity to protect good faith academic discussion. Deakin declined to use the Racial Discrimination Act as a shield, preferring instead to wield it as a sword to strike down deviation from academic orthodoxy.

According to Charles Murray, the well-known co-author of The Bell Curve, our managerial elites are living a lie in refusing to recognise racial realities. How can governments justify subsidising a hopelessly rigid orthodoxy generated by smugly complacent “scholarly research” that endlessly recycles stale, self-referential ideology? Unless you believe that the doctrine of racial egalitarianism is some sort of secular holy writ, inquiry conducted in its name must produce conformist celebrations of conventional wisdom that become ever more vapid as they are effectively insulated from intellectual challenge.

Australian academics will come to resemble workers in the old Soviet Union who pretended to work while their bosses pretended to pay them. “Anti-racist” intellectuals here will pretend to think while the rest of us will pretend to pay attention to their politically correct sermonising. Who said sacred cows are a thing of the past? Isn’t that a whole herd to be seen in the barn-like buildings of the modern public university? No wonder the views of a single non-conforming academic have caused such a stir.

Sooner than we think, an already widespread conviction will become entrenched: that Australia is an over-lawyered, cover-your-ass, fearful-of-what-you-say-in-case-you-lose-your-job society ruled by a secular orthodoxy: somehow created by “nobody” but policed by ideologically-driven activist lawyers. And managed into soporific compliance by super-cautious bureaucrats, whose first priority is the well-being of their academic corporations rather than the debate and discussion that, for example, the exemptions in s. 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act so clearly encourage.

The casualties will be not merely academic excellence, and the economic progress and social peace that could follow but, more importantly, hope itself, the only antidote to despair. Those who now presume to manage the limits of free thought may have to reap the bitter fruits of the poisoned seeds they have sown. Once a people falls into despair, they may become dangerously unpredictable.

Kathe Boehringer teaches media law in the Department of Public Law at Macquarie University. Kathe Boehringer is a 'long-standing girlfriend' of Professor Andrew Fraser.

From On Line opinion - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate, 22 September, 2005.

Denmark - Letter from Helmuth Nyborg requesting help from his colleagues for the defense of his academic freedom

December 3, 2005

Dear Colleague:

At the 2001 meeting of the International Society for Intelligence Research (ISIR), I reported a 4 IQ point advantage for males in intelligence. Upon my return to Denmark I was interviewed by a journalist, and a veritable media storm ensued. The director of my institute publicly stated that he would personally look into the situation. He also said that I made a fool of myself and my institute. Consequently, a "Committee for Proper Research" reprimanded me for what they saw as "premature publication" - i.e. reporting in the media before a full publication in a peer-reviewed journal was at hand. I was called to several meetings with the Dean and the President of the University. The paper was eventually published (See Nyborg, H. (2005) Sex-related differences in general intelligence g, brain size, and social status. Personality and Individual Differences, 39, 497-509; available online at

In 2004 the director wrote to the dean, saying that he could not evaluate my research contribution in his yearly report. In April 2005 he halted my ongoing 30 year longitudinal research project by confiscating the research protocols and informing the Dean he would set up a committee to re-examine my calculations and the method (hierarchical factor analysis) used. As of December 3rd. 2005, I have not been notified who is on the committee.

I am asking if you will write me a letter of support. If so, please address it "To Whom it may Concern", use official paper with your professional affiliation stated, and send it to me at or to my private address: Adslev Skovvej 2, DK-8362, Hoerning, Denmark. Please feel free to comment on any aspect of the academic freedom and scholarship issues raised that you find relevant.

I will then assemble the letters and use them in a defence of my academic freedom.

Yours sincerely, Helmuth Nyborg - Professor, dr. phil., Department of Psychology, University of Aarhus, Denmark.

Academic freedom in Gaza and beyond

Alexander H. Joffe

Academic freedom can be defined many ways, but it critically includes the freedom to criticize, based on facts and informed opinion, without fear of official retaliation. It also means that scholars who experience retaliation – not in the form of criticism in return but in tangible terms such as arrest – should be defended.

On Sunday July 3rd Prof. Riad al-Agha, president of the Gaza-based National Institute of Strategic Studies appeared on Palestine TV. There he criticized the Palestinian Authority's Preventative Security Force for refusing to obey orders issued by the PA Interior Ministry. After the program he was promptly arrested by the Preventive Security Force and charged with "incitement." He was released after making a public apology in which he stated that the force was led by "nationalistic figures whom I highly appreciate and respect and who have a known history of struggling [against Israel]."

In itself al-Agha's arrest and recantation is another small but telling picture of free speech and dissent being repressed by the Palestinian Authority. While upsetting, it is unsurprising, given the official controls over media and free speech instituted by Yassir Arafat, and now carried on by the Palestinian Authority on the one hand, and local Islamists like Hamas on the other. Al-Agha happens to be an academic, while Ammar Hassan, whose performance at a rock concert in Nablus was shut down by masked men with guns, is a singer.

Nor is it surprising that international media overlooked al-Agha's story as well. A cynic might say that reporters and editors simply didn't find this newsworthy because it reflects a commonplace, or perhaps that it doesn't fit their master narrative of the good guys and the bad guys.

But what about academics themselves? What is the position of the Committee on Academic Freedom on the Middle East and North Africa (CAFMENA) of the Middle East Studies Association on this matter? Let us allow that the incident occurred only days ago and that a rapid response could not yet be generated. Perhaps there is reason to hope they will soon. CAFMENA has weighed in on the detention in Armenia of Yektan Turkyilmaz, a Duke University Ph.D. student, apparently on the charge of attempting to smuggle antique books out of the country, as well as six year prison sentence given by Saudi authorities to Professor Matrouk Al-Faleh of King Saud University on charges of "sowing disorder in society" and "disobeying the authorities." Al-Faleh was also awarded MESA's Academic Freedom Award for 2004. Perhaps the summer vacation has slowed things down for CAFMENA.

Already disappointing, however, is the lack of any comment on by Israeli academics on the left and far-left, who would presumably be concerned to defend Palestinian colleagues. A quick look at "alef-Academic Left" listserv run out of Haifa University shows numerous messages concerning settlers, withdrawal, lynching, the arcane "Canaanite" movement, and even a defense of Norman Finkelstein. But nothing in defense of Riad al-Agha. Should anyone be surprised?

As the recent furious battles over the proposed British Association of University Teachers boycott of selected Israeli universities showed, defense of academic freedom is selective at best and wholly one-sided at worse. CAFMENA came out with a firm disavowal of such a boycott, and was careful to include harsh criticism of Israeli policy in its letter as well. And of course, it was also quick to post a furious letter from MESA members condemning the committee's decision and calling for a boycott. Many contributors to the alef list were against the academic boycott, but primarily because it did not go far enough in boycotting Israel as a whole.

Apparently the al-Agha affair also escaped the notice of the Network for Education and Academic Rights, the Scholars at Risk Network, and the Science and Human Rights Program of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, as well as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Thus far the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens' Rights (PICCR), Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, and the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group have all chosen the prudent course of silence.

One of Riad al-Agha's mistakes it seems was to believe that it is "possible to demonstrate against the occupation in this way and also against the Authority." In fact, he seems to have been doubly mistaken. For Palestinians it does not seem possible to protest against the Palestinian Authority, but if it is, it is not especially wise. Almost as tragically, while it is wholly possible for fellow academics in the West to criticize both, the vast majority chooses not to. Perhaps this is motivated by a craven calculation that sees al-Agha's arrest, and the often violent repression of Palestinian society by Palestinians, as a lesser evil to be overlooked in favor of monomaniacal focus on the greater evil, Israel. A cynic might again be tempted to suggest that among some of the more disaffected academics sympathy with the "struggle" has led to sympathy with "resistance," no matter how totalitarian it is in words and deeds. This certainly appears to be the case with respect to Iraq.

Still, we may hope that at least a small protest will arise from academics regarding Riad al-Agha's treatment, from CAFMENA and others. Even in the midst of summer vacation.

Alexander H. Joffe is director of Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum that critiques Middle East Studies at North American colleges and universities.

American Thinker, July 13, 2005.