Meet the Aussie academic who hates debate

Charlie Pearson

Topics Free Speech

Students at the University of Sydney disrupted a speech being given by former British army colonel Richard Kemp on Monday. Kemp was addressing an audience on the topic of how states can deal with terrorism and insurgency, in light of Australia’s engagement with the Islamic State.

Anti-Israel protesters burst in chanting: ‘Richard Kemp, you can’t hide / You support genocide.’ They stood on chairs, shouted through megaphones, and had a tussle with security guards. But the biggest scandal was when an associate professor at the university, Jake Lynch, an avowed supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, allegedly got up and waved money in the face of a Jewish attendee.

You can watch the video of how it panned out here.

Accounts of what took place vary greatly. Lynch’s version of events is that he was merely threatening to sue another attendee if she did not stop physically assaulting him. But as tempting as it is to lose yourself in the juvenile he-said-she-said, the fact remains that a group of university activists, including an actual professor, felt the compulsion to shout down those who hold opposing views, rather than take them on in debate.

Kemp summarised this grim spectacle well: ‘The behaviour of the protesters and the academics was an affront to the core ideals of the university — the freedom to speak, the freedom to assemble and the freedom to engage with ideas and opinions.’

It’s time someone reminded Australia’s self-righteous professors that it’s actually their job to debate ideas.

Charlie Pearson is a writer based in London.

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Topics Free Speech


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