Christian Kerr writes in the The Australian newspaper today that University of Sydney has foreshadowed a downgrading of its controversial Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, following a drop in student enrollments.
The centre and its director, associate professor Jake Lynch, have been embroiled in a string of public squabbles over recent years, attracting claims of antisemitism.
At a lecture being given by retired British military officer Colonel Richard Kemp, a world-renowned expert on armed conflict, the Middle East and a prolific media commentator, protesters, including Jake Lynch, disrupted a lecture, fighting with security guards, at the University of Sydney.
In November 2012, Lynch declined a request by an Israeli academic, Professor Dan Avnon, to name him as a University of Sydney contact on his application for a Sir Zelman Cowen fellowship, which underwrites exchanges between the University of Sydney and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He cited that he believes in the BDS and therefore was boycotting Israeli universities and academics.
Dan Avnon arrived in Sydney 2 years ago this month, to take up a more prestigious position in another faculty, after his refusal by Jake Lynch. The move sparked an explosive academic fight.
In an exclusive interview, Professor Avnon broke his silence to tell The Australian he believed Professor Lynch deserves a “red card” for refusing to sponsor him.
According to the Australian, this and other disputes prompted a review last year of the centre and its functions by the university, which urged it
“to develop a clearer sense of the difference between its advocacy and other roles — ¬especially teaching’’.
Naturally good old Greens senator Lee Rhiannon used a speech on Tuesday night to accuse the university of threatening the centre’s future through “bureaucratic barriers”.
“The centre should be supported as an important research centre and an important voice,”
A Sydney University spokesman confirmed yesterday the university was
“currently considering the possible transition of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies from a centre into a department”,
“a decline in student enrolments in its programs”.
“The centre has been expensive to maintain because it has had to support its own administration and be housed in a separate building,” he said. “As a department, it would be located within the School of Social and Political Sciences, where it would share more administrative support to compensate for declining enrolments and improve sustainability.”
The spokesman spoke of positioning peace and conflict studies as “a mainstream offering in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences”, he said existing staff would remain and the university would continue to support the work of the Sydney Peace Foundation and its annual Sydney Peace Prize.
I suppose then that means people like the likes of Hanan Ashrawi whose Peace Prize was given by Bob Carr, are likely to get the prize again then.
The ALP parliamentary secretary to the Leader of the Opposition, Michael Danby, said that two years ago, both he and the current Leader of the NSW Opposition, Luke Foley, had nominated former High Court judge Michael Kirby for the Sydney Peace Prize in recognition of his work on human rights abuses in North Korea.
Mr Danby said.
“We wanted to test, with the most worthy individual, whether there was any authenticity to this faux-peace centre,”
“Of course, His Honour, despite his groundbreaking work for hundreds of thousands of North Korean political prisoners, where he led the UN’s Commission of Inquiry and which was praised by the UN Security Council, received no peace prize.
“Luke Foley and I barely received any acknowledgment.”
Mr Danby’s remarks were echoed by Liberal Bass MP Andrew Nikolic, who served as a UN military observer in Israel, Syria and South Lebanon during the first Gulf War who said,
“It is unsurprising to me that Sydney University is acting to protect its reputation and credibility.”
“It has always been my contention that the university should have repudiated the activities of the centre long ago.”
He went on to say that Sydney University risked damaging the centre and its activities.