University takes steps to implement French code on free speech

29 July 2019
Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Michael Spence has established a consultative group to determine how the university should best implement recommendations of the French Review.

The Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Sydney, Dr Michael Spence AC, has established a consultative group to determine how the university should best implement recommendations of the Independent Review of Freedom of Speech in Australian Higher Education Providers (“the French Review”), released on 6 April 2019.

The formation of the French Review Model Code Implementation Group follows comments made by Dr Spence where he explained the University welcomed the principles of the report and would now seek to determine “whether we can adopt the Model Code described in the report outright, or embed its principles within our existing policy frameworks to strengthen what we already have in place”.

Dr Spence today said: “The right to speak openly and the right to be heard with respect are core values of our University. This not only sets the tone that allows students to question and challenge assumptions, these principles are also essential for rigorous, free and open academic enquiry.”

The Implementation Group has been tasked with providing an initial report and recommendations on the steps the University should take to implement the principles of the Model Code.

“We are committed to adopting the Model Code, or its principles, but need to take care to ensure we do this in a way that strengthens our already robust framework for upholding freedom of speech and academic freedom,” Dr Spence said.

“Implementing the French Review’s recommended Model Code is far from straightforward because we need to ensure our legal and policy framework for protecting these fundamental freedoms is clear, consistent and workable.

“The Implementation Group has been selected to comprise a range of expertise and perspectives from within the University community. I am delighted the NTEU, SRC, SUPRA and the residential colleges have agreed to serve on the group and am keen to hear their perspectives about how we can implement the Model Code or its principles most effectively.”

The group aims to submit an initial report to the Vice-Chancellor by 30 September. The terms of reference provide more information about the objectives of the group and include amendments to the Model Code that were recently recommended by a Working Group of the Australian University Chancellor’s Council.

The Vice-Chancellor has appointed the University’s General Counsel, Richard Fisher AM, to chair the group. The other members are:

  • Professor Lisa Jackson Pulver AM, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Indigenous Strategy and Services
  • Associate Professor Tony Masters, Chair of the Academic Board
  • Professor Anne Twomey, The University of Sydney Law School
  • Ms Jodi Dickson, Director, Workplace Relations Director, Human Resources
  • Dr Gareth Bryant, Sydney University Branch of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU)
  • Mr Jacky He, President, the Sydney University Student Representative Council (SRC)
  • Ms Xiner Yuan, Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association (SUPRA)
  • Professor Don Markwell, Warden, St Paul’s College (first meeting) / Mr Adrian Diethelm, Rector, St John’s College (subsequent meetings) - residential colleges representative

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