From diamonds to degrees: changing the world by screwing people over
From diamonds to degrees: changing the world by screwing people over)

The University of New South Wales’ website banner asks, “How will you change the world?” The answer, presumably, is, “By clearing poor people out of places that rich people don’t want them to be in”. How else to explain last year’s appointment of Andrew Walters to the position of vice-president of finance and operations?

The university advertises Walters’ “extensive experience in the mining industry as Chief Financial Officer of the Botswana operations of diamond mining company DeBeers”, a position he held between 1999 and 2002. In 2001 he oversaw the privatisation of the company. By moving from public to private ownership, DeBeers hid its involvement in the Botswana government’s oppression of Bushman tribes. Survival, a global advocacy group for tribal people’s rights, noted in 2002:

“The last self-sufficient ‘Bushmen’ of the Kalahari desert have been brutally thrown off their land and dumped in resettlement camps. Behind the government’s actions lurks a deep-seated racism – and the prospect of riches from diamonds under the Bushmen’s land …

“In February, in an operation overseen by a retired army general, trucks moved in, the Bushmen’s water pump was disabled and their water tanks emptied. (Since surrounding cattle ranches use most of the previously available water and have lowered the water table, the Bushmen, whose land is desert, now depend on water pumped from boreholes.) Almost all the Bushmen were trucked out; some were threatened with being burned in their homes if they resisted.”

In response to demands from Survival for DeBeers’ policy on the Bushman, the company said that “a policy to cover indigenous rights would head straight down” the path of apartheid South Africa.

Background in a company like DeBeers is perfect for gaining employment in Australia’s institutions of higher learning. Vice-chancellors and university managements have spent years pushing for further privatisation and deregulation of tertiary education, which has become Australia’s third largest export industry.

The profit-driven university system doesn’t want you on a campus if you don’t have the money to pay. Students are treated as customers, maximum amounts of labour are squeezed out of academic, support and tech staff, and business administrators are hired to manage all of this as efficiently (profitably) as possible.

For all the talk from the university about global responsibility and international citizenship, the appointment of Andrew Walters starkly shows its ultimate interests. The “global citizens” UNSW wants to create are those who fit his image: individuals who have the tenacity and cunning to run corporations that traipse across the world exploiting, thieving and killing for profit.

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