Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Institutional racism

We haven't commented thus far on the racist outpourings by Auckland University academic Margaret Mutu. Plenty of others have said what we would have said, and our contribution to the debate would have been minimal.

Then this morning, we received a message from a Facebook friend. He wrote to the university's vice-chancellor yesterday, and has given us permission to reproduce his e-mail, with his identity concealed. He wrote:

Sent: Monday, 5 September 2011 12:01 p.m.
To: Stuart McCutcheon
Subject: Professor Margaret Mutu

Dear Professor McCutcheon

My name is xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

I am writing to you in regards to the recent comments of Professor Margaret Mutu

I am only writing based on what I have read in the media and so I may be mistaken and her comments may have been taken out of context if that is the case then I apologize, but if her comments are as reported I am disgusted that such racist and hateful comments are condoned by a member of your university

I have 2 Children 15 and 17 and both are considering their university future and I have to tell you if Professor Margaret Mutu is still part of your university while they are deciding where to study then Auckland University will not be part of their decision.

I will not allow my children to study in an institution that condones hate speech and allows racist views to be taught


He received a reply from the vice-chancellor which follows:

Dear Mr xxxxxxxxxxxx

I understand the concerns raised over Professor Margaret Mutu’s reported comments but I also believe very strongly in the right of academics to comment on issues in which they have expertise, even when those comments may be controversial. The Education Act protects the right of academics “within the law, to question and test received wisdom, to put forward new ideas and to state controversial or unpopular opinions”. That is an important right in a free society.

At the same time, I do of course regret the fact that some people will have been hurt or offended by Professor Mutu’s reported comments.


Stuart McCutcheon

We're sure that Stuart McCutcheon has had to write a number of similar letters and e-mails in the last 48 hours, such has been the outcry at Margaret Mutu's reported comments. We reckon that his claim about academic freedom of speech is nothing more than a cop-out, designed to insulate the University of Auckland from fall-out over the remarks of one of its senior staff. In doing so, Mr McCutcheom merely entrenches the perception of institutional racism.

In the meantime, we can only applaud David Rankin of Ngapuhi who has lodged a complaint against Ms Mutu with the Race Relations Conciliator. That Maori are quickly distancing themselves from an extremist is telling; if only the University of Auckland had a similar level of integrity, they might have two more students in years to come.


robertguyton said...

On the topic of racism, I see the “Urewera 18″ are now down to four. The police persecution has now been dropped for eleven of those charged in the Operation 8 raids four and half years ago.


Inventory2 said...

No argument with you on that score Rob; bad law and bad policing methinks; a stain on the Clark government's record, given that the raids took place in 2007.

What about Ms Mutu then? Do you agree with her?

Lew said...

I think McCutcheon (for whom I have little time) was very reserved. My response would have been something along the lines of "If your adult children's course and place of study is subject to your veto on isolated ideological grounds, and if you have sufficient disregard for academic freedom that you would support an academic being hounded from their role for holding contentious views, then the University of Auckland is probably not the right institution for them in any case. We take the contest of ideas seriously here."


Inventory2 said...

Interesting response Lew. Just a question; is your background in academia? I haven't darkened the doorway of a place of higher learning for 35+ years, so I wouldn't have a clue what lattitude is given to reaching staff.

Lew said...

Only as a student, Inv. But the purpose of tenure is to shield world-leading experts from the fallout that might come from their legitimate academic findings being inconvenient to the government of the day, or some other vested power bloc -- that they might state their findings frankly and without fear.

Given that we do not have tenure in this country (and Prof Mutu is technically able to be sacked by the university for airing inconvenient views) any further encouragement for universities to cut academics loose on shallow PR grounds is deleterious.

You (and your correspondent) might not agree with Mutu's views here, but it'd be wise to remember that that won't always be true. Would you give over the academic authority to argue an unpopular finding that you deeply believe in and value to the vagaries of public opinion? I wouldn't.


robertguyton said...

Guess I don't have to say anything Inv2, now that Lew's cleared the decks.

Inventory2 said...

Dunno about "cleared the decks" Rob, but all those big words....they didn't use them at the University of Life!

baxter said...

The logical conclusion to draw was that this racist was speaking on behalf of the university who endorse the hateful tripe she is teaching her students. I thought the grinning walrus last night was just as woeful.If that was an interview words fail me.

pdm said...

Lew - what does your statement that we do not have tenure in this country mean.

Who are the `we' you are referring to?

Tinman said...

I have not commented on this because I hadn't made my mind up.

I have no problem with Mutu being racist nor with her voicing those thoughts but only if she is prepared to back up her racism by refusing things introduced or paid for by non-maori/non-asians.

Mutu made no comment about blacks, Arabs etc.according to reports so one must assume they are neutral.

Universities are one of the things Mutu must forgo and for this reason, not her racist comments per se, she should immediately be fired.

Her forebears (some would say from both sides) were illiterate stone-age savages so no written notice required, just call in security.

Courts are another so no appeals either.

I'll happily watch this scum walk off into the sunset, naked and penniless to fend for herself with no money, no electronic or electric devices, no books, no plastics and no bloody hope.

Mark said...

I'm still trying to work out why Paul Buchanan was given the boot having regard to the Uni's relaxed attitude to Mutu's comments.

Lew said...

pdq, I mean that New Zealand universities do not have institutionalised tenure in the same sense that, for instance, American universities do. Academic tenure is more or less for life.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, David Rankin, that would be the guy who thinks iwi should be able to openly tax NZ citizen.
Reasonable and not racist himself, yeah right.

robertguyton said...

Backing Rankin is a naive mistake.

Quinton Hogg said...

I have no problem with what Ms Mutu has said.

She is entitled to express her opinion under the education act whether or not people like what she says.

I've actually met her in my real life. As is the case with many who are painted as ogres I was very surprised to meet a very mildly spoken polite and courteous person with whom I share a common interest in oral history.

smttc said...

What is freedom without the freedom to offend?

James Stephenson said...

The problem isn't what Mutu said, but the double standard with respect to the way anyone white is treated.

Anonymous said...

Backing Rankin is a naive mistake.

What Inventory2 said was:
"In the meantime, we can only applaud David Rankin of Ngapuhi who has lodged a complaint against Ms Mutu with the Race Relations Conciliator."

Not a carte-blanche endorsement of David Rankin, but praise where praise is due, surely?
There is a difference.

robertguyton said...

Quinton's showing admirable reasoning here. No knee-jerk nonsense from him.