A monarchist, a Nazi and a man in a toga walk into a student general meeting at the University of Queensland. They try to defend the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation’s attempt to buy its way into the university to a crowd of more than 400 students. They get booed, laughed at and derided. Eventually students just tell them to get off the stage and go home.
The final humiliation comes when we vote overwhelming against university management taking the Ramsay Centre bribe to offer its degree on campus.
Since last year, the UQ administration has pursued talks with the centre to institute a major for Western Civilisation on the campus. Students and staff have resisted, organising forums and protests on the issue.
We oppose Ramsay on the basis of its revision of Western history and its attempt to whitewash the crimes of colonisation, genocide and slavery.
Staff, members of the National Tertiary Education Union, also raised concerns. The UQ Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS) Board of Studies has voted twice against a proposed Ramsay curriculum. The NTEU explained staff opposition:
“The Ramsay Centre promotes an outmoded and uncontested view of ‘Western Civilisation’ and arguably seeks to promote a neo-conservative political agenda in universities. A deal with Ramsay would undermine academic freedom and university independence.”
The dean of the HASS responded by telling staff that their role is merely advisory. She also confirmed her endorsement of the curriculum.
Then we called the student general meeting.
As the debate opened, supporters of the Ramsay Centre were few and far between. From the beginning, they failed to win favour with the audience. A pro-Ramsay speaker tried to argue that the centre would fund Arts at UQ. No one bought it, and someone could be heard saying, “We don’t want racist money”.
The monarchist followed. He opened his argument with, “I too would like to acknowledge the traditional owner of this land: her majesty, queen Elizabeth”.
He was met with jeering and a bottle was thrown at him.
When he tried to list the supposed achievements of Western civilisation, people chimed in with their own additions: “racism!” and “murder!”
The anti-Ramsay speakers had a warmer reception.
When a representative from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student Collective said, “I would just like to acknowledge that sovereignty was never ceded no matter what lunatics say”, loud cheers echoed throughout the theatre.
“My whole life I’ve been asked to forget things. Some of the glories of Western civilisation, which the last lunatic was speaking about, he failed to mention genocide. He forgot to mention children stolen from their families. He forgot to mention deaths in police custody”, he said.
The vote against Ramsay was a victory against racism.
However, the fight is not over. We need to maintain the pressure to stop the university’s negotiations with Ramsay once and for all.