Letter to Prof. Caroline McMillen, University of Newcastle Vice-Chancellor and President
Prof. Caroline McMillen
Vice-Chancellor and President
University of Newcastle, Australia
I understand that you wish to suppress students' stories. We understand that it is to the benefit of the University, not the students, if we sign a charter agreeing to never releasing the identity of students in cases, even when they have given their express permission to do so. You are no doubt aware that the media is generally loath to report stories without students’ identities. Furthermore, it is up to the individual student whether their name is released to the media - not you.
I am disgusted that you are still claiming Jawad was camping and are insinuating that he was not on hunger strike. You cannot change his story in that way - he owns his own hunger strike. NUSA assisted Jawad in making his hunger strike public so that he could tell his story to the public. NUSA has no qualms about releasing his name to the media, we did after all quote him directly and he approved all his quotes in our media releases.
We are still waiting for your response to the second document we sent a year ago on the Chinese Major. We still are waiting for responses to many cases. When will you respond on the issues we have brought up about University officials potentially breaching laws, policies and codes?
You have referred in University Council meetings to me apparently missing a meeting with you. In my personal opinion, you have tried to belittle me and humiliate me. I do not believe that I missed a meeting, but if I did, I hereby humbly apologise.
You know that Jawad has said "I am on hunger strike" and has said he gave NUSA permission to release his identity. I submit you have been misleading the University community and general public by stressing that NUSA needs to sign a charter agreeing not to give out the identity of students. Mr Chafil is 29 going on 30. He is old enough to make his own decision about whether his identity is released concerning his own hunger strike and NUSA is not going to collude with the University in a cover-up. In addition, by stressing that NUSA needs to sign this charter of anonymity, NUSA submits that you are implying that we did not have the Jawad's permission to release his name. NUSA submits that you were being misleading and deceptive in your behaviour.
The CRIMES ACT 1900 - SECT307B states:
False or misleading information
307B False or misleading information
(1) A person is guilty of an offence if:
(a) the person gives information to another person, and
(b) the person does so knowing that the information:
(i) is false or misleading, or
(ii) omits any matter or thing without which the information is misleading, and...
The above is quoted directly from the CRIMES ACT 1900. NUSA submits that in your recent communications you breached this clause because you knew that NUSA had Jawad's permission to release his identity and you knew that he was on hunger strike.
Jawad informed us that he spoke with you and you made an agreement with him regarding his potential future studies. Am I now to understand from your communication that there is no agreement? That you were attempting to just stop his hunger strike? Or are you saying that Jawad has misunderstood your conversation? I would like to remind you that Mr Chafil had barely eaten in five days when he spoke to you and had not eaten for about 36 hours when you spoke. He had also been sleeping rough for five nights. This makes him a vulnerable person and NUSA submits that it is imperative that he is clear on where he stands with the University.
Furthermore, NUSA submits that you have used Jawad to undermine NUSA through the staff-only e-list. NUSA understands that very few people have access to this list and we are not able to defend ourselves through that list.
NUSA is still yet to receive a response from the University on our report about the attacks against international students. We are aware that the University used its immense media machine and claimed that it was "only 5%". I submit that this shows no evidence of leadership. We have been informed by international students that when SBS came to cover the story, the University asked international students to come and say on camera how great the University is. These students told us that they were not fully aware of what SBS was covering and in fact some of these students were the ones working to support our report an incident module - they had been victims themselves.
NUSA is still waiting for a response on the submission sent regarding cuts to face-to-face teaching in Education courses.
On a different note, NUSA's entire funding is about 2/3 your salary. NUSA rents our building from the University, yet we had to install our own fire and smoke alarms after the University repeatedly failed to do so.
You might like to say that you want a strong student organisation and will support NUSA – but at some point you will have to walk the walk.
We are currently representing students on a number of very serious issues in which we believe the University has breached laws, policies and codes. You are the Vice-Chancellor yet you have not responded on these issues.
You have communicated to us that the University will not accept appeals from NUSA on behalf of students. This, despite students giving us permission to represent them and even after a student emailed you directly instructing the University to communicate directly with us.
In correspondence, it was stated that no third party could lodge appeals on behalf of students and furthermore that University policies and procedures do not allow it.
- Firstly, there is no such policy.
- Secondly, if there was such a policy it does not mean that is it right.
- Thirdly, you have no right to remove a student’s nominated representative.
- Fourthly, how does the University rectify its stance with a person’s right to legal representation?
NUSA is very concerned that the University pays for legal advice, lawyers and barristers in cases which reach courts. This money is essentially student money. In other words, the University takes students to court with the students’ money.
To finish Caroline, I submit that the University of Newcastle has failed to act as a responsible self-accredit autonomous agency and believes it can do whatever it wants. The University is a public institution, not a corporation.
I predict that this is not a sustainable approach and is demeaning the public education and service that Universities ought to give to the general public.
We have copied in several persons to the email as we believe they have an interest in this matter and we authorise them to use material presented.
NUSA calls for a public inquiry into the University of Newcastle.