'Intimidatory' order to be reviewed

Published in the Australian, 2 August 1989, p. 13.

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of NSW, Professor Michael Birt, has promised to look at the rewording of an order that the university's letterhead and address should be used "only for correspondence that is directly related to the university's business".

He will provide the decision next week.

In the forum that preceded the meeting of the Academic Board yesterday, he spoke of academics adding their addresses to plain pieces of paper rather than using the university's letterhead.

A senior lecturer in the School of Physiology, Dr John Carmody, said that he had withheld bringing the matter up before the board in order to see what the administration determined.

He opposed the letterhead order not just on grounds of the question of academic freedom, but also because it was not for the university administration to determine what was relevant for the academic community.

He believed the way the matter had been introduced to be intimidatory.

The instruction, issued in May by the Division of the Deputy Principal and Registrar for the administration manual, said: "In particular, correspondence between a member of staff and the press is regarded as personal correspondence, and the member is not permitted to use the university as her or his address."

On June 7, Professor Birt wrote to The Australian about the university being "a place committed to the free discussion of a wide variety of views on almost every conceivable topic.

"It is essential in a democracy for its members be able to speak out publicly about any issue which affects the good of the whole".

Professor Birt was deploring the apparent denial of this freedom in China.


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