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.
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.