A discussion of contemporary issues in media ethics, with olives and a twist. Made with only the freshest ingredients, shaken, stirred and poured over ice. I should also mention that I do like the odd, occasional martini. Bombay Sapphire gin and Lillet, dry and plenty of salty olives. Welcome to this cocktail of journalism and alcohol. A fine combination!

Monday, 11 June 2007

QUT gutless over PhD furore

Academics stunned at ban | The Courier-Mail

My pals John Hookham and Garry MacLennan have been suspended without pay from the Queensland University of Technology for six months. This is an effective sacking for these courageous academics who have spoken out about a very poorly thought-out PhD thesis dealing with humour and disability.

The sacking is cowardly because it means that QUT does not have to deal with the substantial issues that Hookham and MacLennan raised (for the background, track down the blog).
If the two are suspended without pay they are effectively silenced and humiliated. As Garry said, the brutality of this action is astounding.

The university is defending itself against criticism of some of its ethics approval procedures and the intellectual rigour of some of the supervising academics who are managing the controversial thesis topic.
As Garry and John pointed out in their original article critiquing the Doctorate, the moral relativism of postmodern "theory" has won the day here.

This is a shameful day for QUT and signals very strongly that academic freedom in Australia is under the administrative hammer.


Anonymous said...

I note that the PhD project aims to produce dvd's for sale - at QUT this will get him the PhD all by itself.

But seriously, what a disgrace. As a young academic at QUT, I dream of one day experiencing the fairy tale of "academic freedom" recounted to me by my experienced colleagues.

We joke that QUT is actually just another arm of the public service and that the academics are the "blue collar" workers at Gardens Point (apologies to other campuses).

Personally, Coaldrake scares the hell out of me.

Anonymous said...

Bollocks. The press reporting of this issue is so unbalanced that it is hard to believe. Anyone who knows the full story behind this would not be coming out on blogs slagging Michael Noonan on the basis of totally unbalanced reporting and no other information.... Come on people... have a think about it! How are you forming your opinions? From the sensationalised press reports? Come on! Let me just ask you a question. If you had someone run to the press in your workplace because they had an issue with a junior member of staff, would you consider that courageous? Did the try to resolve the issue through reasoned discussion in an appropriate forum? No..... So, if your idea of courage and 'free speech' is defaming a student in the national media, your values are completely skewed.

Anonymous said...

Letters - May 09, 2007

Missing the point

AS the Queensland University of Technology PhD student at the centre of attacks by John Hookham and Gary MacLennan (”Philistines of relativism at the gates”, HES, April 11; Disabled project a crisis, HES, April 25) I feel it is time for me to say “Enough!”

Their claim that the two intellectually disabled men in this “sorry affair” have been abused is a most serious and uninformed charge. It implies that I have abused them. It implies that their parents and guardians, who have given the project their full support, have let them be abused. It implies that the Spectrum Organisation, a highly respected disability organisation with more than 250 disabled clients, is supportive of this abuse.

The two disabled men who are part of my project do not need to be defended by Hookham and MacLennan. They are perfectly capable of defending themselves. They are independent men who can make choices of their own. They are my dear friends. Their parents and guardians have offered to write vigorous letters of support. But I do not think they should have to defend me publicly.

The simple facts are these: the excerpts I showed at my PhD confirmation seminar were presented in the context of exploring and discussing issues of authorship and representation in disability. My project seeks to empower the disabled, to give them a voice through comedy. Each clip was prefaced with my own thoughts about whether this had been achieved.

Hookham and MacLennan say they are “alone in their criticism of the project”, that the rest of those present at the seminar, QUT staff and students among them, are somehow morally corrupt. The reason they are alone in their criticism is simple: everyone else at the seminar was listening. Everyone else understood the context in which the clips were played.

The confirmation panel, which included a Disability Studies expert, read my 50-page confirmation document and watched two hours of supplied video material. As far as I know, Hookham and MacLennan have made no effort to read my confirmation document. They rejected my attempts to meet and discuss their concerns. They challenged Brad Haseman, the assistant dean (research) of QUT’s creative industries faculty, to distribute my video footage for judgment. In response, I challenge them to find a filmmaker on earth who would think it reasonable for their rushes to be judged by an external party. Never have I stated that my project is complete or ready for public scrutiny.

They speak highly of the complex and sophisticated way in which Shakespeare shaped, formed and structured his texts, yet they do not allow me the time and the space to shape, form and structure my own text. They speak of academic freedom, yet deny me mine. They speak of morals and values and decency, yet they have treated me - and those involved in my project - with little regard to these considerations.

Last week MacLennan further attacked my integrity, my project and QUT, emailing more than 400 of his students with a link to his original column. Many of these students I teach and have taught in my duties as a sessional staff member and I am appalled that they have been so deliberately dragged into this issue without all the necessary facts.

If my integrity and intentions are to be judged, let my critics do so on the basis of my completed work: my previous project, Unlikely Travellers, is a three-part series that will screen on the ABC later this year. It has taken two years to shape and I think it will break down barriers and empower people with disabilities. It is a work of which I am extremely proud.

The intentions of my new project are the same: all I ask is the time and the space to complete it.

Michael Noonan
Queensland University of Technology (AUSTRALIAN - HIGHER EDUCATION)

Anonymous said...

Honestly I have nothing to say about Noonan - I know little of the work and nothing of any concrete surety - so I have no place to comment on that, and have not previously.

I do have experience with QUT's idea of what a university is though - there is no value for academia there... unless of course it can generate some money and the true over reaction here has been to the words of Maclennan and Hookham.

Anonymous said...

glad you seem to be an expert. do you know what the two men were actually accused of? Glad to see you think there is no value for academic at QUT. Know anything about its research?

Anonymous said...

The original charges levelled against MacLennan and Hookham are online.
It does seem to be that one of the PhD student's supervisors,  Alan McKee took the
comments of the now-suspended academics rather personally.

Anonymous said...

and when you read about the kind of orchestrated demolition job these two tried to enact, you might get some inkling of why the copped a suspension. I find the reporting and the blog commentary at the same time laughable and frightening.

Marty said...

this issue has certainly created a stir, with opinion well divided on who's right and who's wrong.
I'm glad to see that Michael Noonan is defending himself too. He obviously has a right to do so and his comments are welcome here.
It's also got personal, with some now making wild allegations about John Hookham. They are certainly libelous and unchallenged at this point.
I wonder if there's some comparison between the documentary and "Little Britain"?

Anonymous said...

Re: Noonan's thesis supervisor, Assoc Professor Alan McKee

hookah said...
and when you read about the kind of orchestrated demolitionjob these two
tried to enact, you might get some inkling of why the copped a suspension.
I find the reporting and the blog commentary at the same time laughable
and frightening. June 13, 2007 1:30 AM

An interesting comment. I'm wondering how Hookham and MacLennan could've 'demolished' Alan McKee's reputation to such an extent that he felt compelled to complain that H and M have shown him 'disrespect'? This is a legitimate question because McKee can be found in any simple google search of "Alan McKee" and "pornography" as actively encouraging controversy in much of his own work. For example:

Constructing the 'Australian man' in gay video porn
by Alan McKee

What happens when a nation-state meets a Queer nation? This paper and screening
looks at examples of pornography made in Australia, comparing their national
status as 'Queer' objects with their national status as 'Australian' objects.
Kangaroos, koalas and emus maybe instantly recognisable symbols of Australia,
but do they remain so when viewed by two topless young men in a four-wheel drive,
as a prelude to homosexual congress? The Sydney Opera House symbolises a cultural
affectation that has been important for overcoming Australian cultural cringe,
but how is opera articulated to homosexuality when it is merely a backdrop for
c*cksucking? How Australian can gay sex be? And how gay can Australia be? And
what does any of this have to do with transnational flows of capital? By
showing gratuitous and salacious clips from the gay porn videos Australian
, Going Down Under, Jackaroos and Manly Beach, this paper
will at least ask some of these questions.

I'm not at all interested or concerned about McKee's sexuality. The point I'm trying to make here is that McKee has a verifiable record of being deliberately confrontational in his language and approach used in his own work ("By showing gratuitous and salacious clips from the gay porn videos ...") so it's a safe bet to assume that Noonan's controversial stance had to be shaped as a result of having McKee as his supervisor.

So where is McKee's voice in all the controversy?

I'd be interested to read how McKee justifies a methodology that deliberately provokes controversy and outrage: is this meant to change or challenge people's attitudes to, in this case, the disabled? (Has McKee's own work in Queer Studies resulted in any success in changing people's attitudes to gay people?) Or, is being 'gratuitous and salacious' all there is to it?

Because, in the end, these kinds of questions need to be asked, and answered, if we're to get some idea of how Noonan and his supervisor approach the concept of 'academic freedom' for their own work, but then feel offended when other academics exercise their academic freedom to reproach Noonan and McKee.

Or is about how H and M challenged Noonan's work? (If the latter, then it's not about academic freedom, it's about procedural matters, and McKee cannot claim to be have been shown 'disrespect').