Uni Daze pt 1: Nepotism enrolment scandal

What is elitism? How might elites use power to repress freedom?

Elitism only works when there is integrity. Unfortunately, that probably means most of the time it doesn’t work. Everyone wants to be perceived as the best, so a strategy of pursuing elitism is a winning formula! What is it, Greg Nyquist?

Elitism… is an inherent part of human condition. In many areas of professional human endeavor the competition is fierce, and only so many people can carve out successful careers for themselves. Not everyone who wishes to be a congressman can be one; nor can everyone who wishes to be a professional composer satisfy his ambition.

The only question in so far as the problem of elitism is concerned is whether or not those who succeed and take up positions as the leading elites in their respective professions deserve their eminent positions. If they do in fact deserve to be elites, if they are, in effect, “genuine” elites, then we have on our hands an instance of “good” elitism, and there is absolutely no reason to get all indignant about it. If, on the other hand, those who occupy the most eminent and powerful positions in their professions do not deserve to be where they are, if they have unfairly supplanted those who do and, consequently, make up, not a genuine elite, but a sham one, then this is an instance of bad elitism.

Freedom against repression

Can a lack of transparency result in ‘sham elitism’?

Alumni and current students of the University of Queensland seem disgusted by the way an enrolment scandal has afflicted their institution. Corporatization of Australian tertiary education has meant this is unlikely to be an isolated incident. Whilst university structures such as Bond and the University of ‘Melbourne Model‘ may run closed shops to support what many criticize as a purely capitalist system, you come to expect a certain level of transparency with public institutions. (Reports suggest another public institution, the University of Western Australia aims to join Melbourne along the greedy path of the wannabe American university model based on full fees).

The University of Queensland nepotism scandal broke last year with the Courier Mail reporting an inconsistency with an acceptance of a student into medicine without fulfilling the necessary criteria. The omission was slight if the facts supplied are to be believed. Now, the story is just beginning with the Crime and Misconduct Commission of Queensland announcing a criminal investigation into the institution.

Along the way, the Vice Chancellor (who presided over the administrative flaws) resigned his role at the university and as head of the Group of Eight research funding lobby group. Let’s be frank, he could not carry out his role properly as he was an object of disgust for staff and students.

St Lucia UQ

In the Courier Mail, James Thomas, a retired Supreme Court judge who lectured and published a text at the university, said this of the Vice Chancellor:

…It is strongly arguable that his ethical duty as leader of a great public institution demands more from him than sitting on his legal rights.

A vice-chancellor is in a different position to a lowly student. The university is a great institution, bigger than some government departments. Thousands of citizens aspire to enter it.

They need to know that its entry requirements are publicly stated and rigidly applied, and that entrance will always be on merit, not favour.

Concerns of this kind are currently held by many, and they tend to affect the reputation of the university. His is the public face of the institution.

The author commenced a double degree at this institution in 1995. He returned for cross institutional enrolment commencing in 2004. Someone close to him worked at the university in several roles with student support services. Whilst that doesn’t qualify one to pass judgement whatsoever, it’s clear quite a lot happened in 10 years. Consider the lack of government funding pursued by the Howard government, unprecedented expenditure on advertising from public universities and changes to the intake of international students.

What failed in this instance was a lack of transparency in an institution that, like all others do, purportedly pursues an equitable and elite standard of education. Ironically, Vice Chancellor Greenfield achieved a lot, including winning the institution ‘more discovery grants than any other member of the Group of Eight’ according to the Melbourne Age column the Third Degree.

The original nepotism scandal has encouraged further claims of ‘enrolment inconsistencies’ to be made public knowledge. Fortunately, the university is implementing systematic changes.

Bad Taste University

Universities are the foundation of learning. Profit is critical, but universities were not historically designed to be income-producing entities. Ethics and principles are fundamentally important, arming students for life. If we find elitism to be a sham in institutions established by statute to be accountable to (and owned by) the public, what hope is there for ‘genuine elitism’ within corporations where a balance between greed and integrity is even more difficult to establish?

Coming up next time…

The blogger examines transparency a bit further with a broader matter that affects every university in the country.

Are international students given special privileges because they are full fee paying? What are the benefits in allowing international students to ‘cross-subsidise domestic students’? Should we examine the ‘morality of taking fees from foreign students from developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region to prop up Australian universities’?

In the meantime, check out Turning off the Tap. Berlin photo by Karl-Ludwig Poggemann. UQ photo by Amy Glen.

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The original text of Uni Daze pt 1: Nepotism enrolment scandal written by FMDXing.wordpress.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License.

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One Response to Uni Daze pt 1: Nepotism enrolment scandal

  1. anonymous says:

    Brilliant stuff! You ought to be a journo! Watch out Julian Assange!

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