Te Pūkenga Teaching Staff Must Have Their Academic Freedom Upheld And Affirmed

16 March 2023


Te Pūkenga Teaching Staff Must Have Their Academic Freedom Upheld And Affirmed

The academic freedom of the teaching staff at Te Pūkenga must be upheld and affirmed. Academics in New Zealand have the responsibility to be society’s 'critic and conscience', yet through instructions like those issued by the Chief Executive, academic freedom will suffer a death by 1000 cuts, says Jonathan Ayling, Chief Executive of the Free Speech Union.

"We are very concerned by the apparent speech-policing by the Chief Executive of the mega-merger of institutes of technology and polytechnics. Teaching staff at Te Pūkenga have the right to academic freedom not only on principle, but also plainly legislated in the Education and Training Act 2020.

‘Academics are not public servants; not even close. The right to academic freedom explicitly includes the right to question and test received wisdom, to put forward new ideas (in whatever language necessary) and even to state controversial or unpopular opinions. Naturally, this would include ideas that politicians might disagree with. Therefore, it is imperative that academics not be constrained by any requirement for ‘political neutrality’.

‘We are also concerned by the use of a ‘style-guide’ with a list of words Te Pūkenga staff are expected not to use. Even if not mandatory or enforced, such expectations indicate a culture hostile to free speech that chills the free expression of staff. The way that ideas are described and spoken is often as vital as the ideas themselves. Debates must not be pre-determined through tone-policing.

‘We count many academic staff among our supporters. They have impressed upon us their belief that the instructions are antithetical to their important role. We call on Te Pūkenga Chief Executive Peter Winder to withdraw his instructions for staff to be ‘politically neutral’ and rescind the speech-policing ‘style guide’."

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  • Tomas O'Brien
    published this page in Media releases 2023-11-21 11:42:55 +1300

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