June 08, 2007

Academics Face Sack for Objecting to Laughing at the Disabled!

By Ciaron O'Reilly, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Today I attended a solidarity vigil for
Gary MacLennan outside his QUT (Queensland University of Technology) disciplinary hearing. Gary and a fellow QUT academic John Hookam, are facing disciplinary hearings and possible dismissals, for objecting to a PhD project entitled "Laughing at the Disabled". Check the link below for background on the case: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEucGUEQFwA

I first met Gary in the 1970's in Brisbane, he had arrived in Brisbane at a time when "Laughing at the Irish" (Irish jokes
were at their height in the '70's) and shooting them in the streets were dovetailing in his native north of Ireland. Gary was one of the courageous voices under the Bjelke Petersen state government that suppressed free speech (thousands of arrests from '77-'80) and systematic police corruption.

Gary, myself and many of our friends were victims of Political arrests, bashings, police raids and harrassment during
this period. Gary has taught for over 32 years at QUT where he is celebrated as an inspirational teacher.

The "Laughing at the Disabled" PhD had been passed by the ethics committee and had exploited two adults with disabilities, setting them up to be humiliated in a country pub. Gary and John expressed opposition at the PhD presentation and later wrote an
article for "The Australian" newspaper see:


These acts are the basis of the discplinary action. In a Kafkaesque twist they have been accused of "bullying" by those who bully the disabled for entertainment.

Today's hearing was held behind closed doors with no defense counsel. "Queenslander of the Year" aboriginal academic Chris Sarra http://www.abc.net.au/message/news/stories/s1126447.htm
attended the hearing to advocate for Gary.

The actions raise questions about attitudes to people with disabilities, free expression and natural justice. These questions are not being explored in the disciplinary hearing but were explored in a forum outside the hearing today. These issues need to be explored inside QUT and outside. The sacking of these courageous academics will not advance this exploration.


Anonymous said...

See also Indymedia for later news and to comment. The academics have now been disciplined with unpaid suspension for 6 months.

Sal Fiore said...

There is a discussion on issues of freedom of speech and academic freedom on Indymedia Ireland.


It would be useful to unite on more fronts for a possible international demo - rally?.



Anonymous said...

Yes clearly we do need to do more. It is difficult to know what effect this blog is having.... how many hits are there... what kind of responses are there... are we just speaking into a void or does this blog have any credibility?

There will be a need to discredit us because as the research literature shows that is how the cycle works...discredit those who have the audacity to speak out so that their words dissolve into a hysterical scream....

We need to avoid hysterical screaming and to build an emotional wall (as a wise person on this blog suggested) that helps us to cope with and contain our emotions...

And then what.......

Aphra Behn

Anonymous said...

With the academics, it is always the same story: reason must prevail.

But what we mean by reason is not a debate we can engage in order to make our minds more splendid and prestigious ......


Anonymous said...

I wish to agitate against the familiar sense of powerlessness I feel in reading Gary MacLennan's Reply to the Vice Chancellor from Indymedia, a short extract:

"But, Vice Chancellor, I am at a considerable disadvantage here in replying to your charges. I was at the confirmation and heard the candidate and saw what he had on his tape. I do not believe you have seen what was shown. I have been given to understand that Dr Brad Haseman, who was entrusted with investigating a complaint from me, did not take the trouble to watch the tape. I have also been given to understand that Dr Michael Keane, who was on the committee that gave this ethical clearance, has not watched the tape. Moreover the Dean of Creative Industries has also admitted to me personally that she has not seen the tape either. So I do not see how you can understand my reaction to the tape."

Anonymous said...

Has anyone heard of a probationary period that lasted 15 months, just because one challenged the manager's lies? with the full support of the human resources and under the watchfull eyes of UCU local representative.

Anonymous said...

Is academic freedom dead?
A blog on MacLennan and Hookham's suspension and possible termination from the Australian
Courier Mail