Sydney University announced last month that it planned on demoting its Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies from a centre to a department, following a decrease in student enrolments. The centre’s director, Jake Lynch, was investigated by the university last year after claims of anti-Semitism. Now NSW MPs from both the Greens and the ALP have sent letters to the university in support of the centre, with the Greens calling the move a “damaging proposal”:

Through its advocacy and public profile, CPACS has been instrumental in bringing to the public agenda many vital and controversial issues which do not make headlines in the mainstream media. Some of those issues include the rights and freedoms of Palestinians; the aspirations for peace with justice of the people of West Papua; the militarisation of Australia; and the need for accountability for alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka.

The University is at risk of giving rise to an inference in the wider community that this plan may be a politically motivated attack on CPACS, aimed at silencing its important voice.”

Federal and state Labor MPs including Melissa Parke and NSW shadow attorney-general Paul Lynch signed a letter from seven MPs, saying that the controversies surrounding the centre meant that it was performing its role:

The fact that CPACS has attracted lively public debate and some adverse commentary in conservative quarters for its role in the Sydney Peace Prize, as well as for its efforts to provide different perspectives in a public discourse dominated generally by mainstream media, means that it is doing its job.”

It cannot be good for our democracy to and academic reputation to attenuate such voices. It would be particularly disturbing if a prestigious institution like Sydney University, by the simplest expedient of withdrawing resources from CPACS, is seen to suppress reflection and debate on important, even controversial matters.”

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Peter Fray

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