An unprecedented scholarship program to encourage the study of Western civilisation has faced a backlash from within the first university selected to participate, with staff and students accusing the philanthropic group behind it of pushing a “racist” and “radically conservative agenda”.
The Conservative Party has questioned why the Australian National University would reject such a course given the fact that the university already teaches Asian studies and an Arab and Islamic studies centre and the university has accepted $2 million from the governments of Dubai, Iran and Turkey.
The National Tertiary Education Union and the Australian National University Student Association have intervened in negotiations between the university and the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation over a proposal to establish an undergraduate degree that could see up to 40 students offered scholarships in the first two years worth $25,000 a year each.
In a letter to vice-chancellor Brian Schmidt the NTEU ANU branch president Matthew King expressed “grave concerns” and warned of a potential backlash if the finalised agreement were perceived to compromise the university’s core principles.
ANUSA president Eleanor Kay told the campus newspaper, ANU Observer, that Western civilisation was often used as “a rhetorical tool to continue the racist prioritisation of Western history over other cultures”. She said there was “value to learning from Western civilisation” without prioritising it over others.
Conservatives leader Senator Cory Bernardi has told Ben Fordham on Sky News this is an appalling indictment on how far we have fallen in defence of our freedoms and values.