How can the University of Queensland recover from the Drew Pavlou affair?

This Will Reflect Well On Me,' Says Cartoon Villain Peter Hoj ...The management of the University of Queensland, and in particular Peter Hoj and Peter Varghese, stand condemned today by the international media, by both Labor and Liberal politicians, by both left-wing and right-wing Australians, by its own students, and by the powerful pro-American lobby. That management unleashed a shit-storm on itself today by its decision (via a kangaroo court) to suspend Drew Pavlou for 2 years and thus oust him as student representative on the UQ Senate, as well as make it impossible for him to finish his studies.

I have talked about the intricacies and wider politics of this case before, and in a recent comment I analysed the particulars of the shit-storm and how UQ management has effectively already admitted defeat. They’ll back-track on Drew.

Here I want to talk about how the University of Queensland, where I worked for more than 6 years and where I still have friends and colleagues, can truly recover from its current shame. Let’s first scope the full extent of the scandal and then the two paths the university can now take: a cosmetic make-over that will leave the corrupted structures in place and will hence just mean another scandal in 5 to 10 years time, or a radical clean-up that would restore UQ as a place of learning and debate. Obviously the cosmetic make-over is the far more likely course of action, but the radical clean-up is the better course of action in the longer run, so I want to sketch that one too.

Let’s first think about the scope of the scandal. Being condemned by the whole of the Western world, exposed as a place that has totally lost its values and its way, is no small matter.

The current condemnation is much bigger than the one around the corruption scandal with the previous vice-chancellor, Greenfield, who secured his daughter an undeserved place in the medical school. That scandal opened the way for Peter Hoj who promised to clean the place up but, instead, joined in with all the shenanigans. He set up an internal police to subdue any dissident academic and student voices, a police force that wrote the 186 page report on Drew. He looked after Greenfield in retirement via helping him with lucrative commissions and board positions. He set up even more management layers than UQ already had, and, as many now realise, sold out completely to the Chinese Consulate.

Within a few weeks or so, I think the following picture of UQ management will be shared by Australians in general, including the citizens of Brisbane:

  1. The management of Queensland’s premier university sold out to a foreign power (China) for money, a foreign power that has just enacted a controversial new law regarding the suppression of civil liberties in Hong Kong.
  2. UQ management allowed that foreign power to violently suppress peaceful demonstrations on campus that supported the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.
  3. It allowed that foreign power to dictate the content of courses related to China, to vet the academics teaching it, and to control Chinese students on campus.
  4. UQ management hence abandoned Chinese students critical of the Party, Australian students, human rights principles, any usual academic standards, any notion of free speech, and any form of independence.
  5. In order to be able to make such a Faustian bargain, UQ management needed absolute control. It had achieved this by systematically suppressing academic independence and student free speech for many years, such that the academics and students felt intimidated enough to just go along with anything management wanted. If you need proof of this, just ask yourself the question where you can read the voices of UQ academics critical of Hoj’s handling of the case. Till very recently, there were almost none because they are far too afraid, having seen what happens to dissenters many times in the last 10 years. Also, there is no more obvious token of the conversion of a once real university into a subdued craven fiefdom than the fact that Peter Hoj arrived as merely a vice-chancellor and is now the President of UQ. It will be King of UQ next, then Emperor.

I think all this will be publicly known soon and accepted as the lay of the land, seen widely as a problem that should be fixed. There are much deeper problems though for the University of Queensland, extending far beyond the current management group, which will not be so visible and hence will not be part of the thing that is asked to be fixed. Those much worse and deeper problems are listed later on.

Technology: the easy scapegoat - Canadian Counselling and ...Now, the cosmetic solution to these five visible problems is to scape-goat Peter Hoj, get rid of any overly visible Chinese Communist Party influence on the UQ campus, and otherwise continue to pretend UQ management is not bullying its academics and students into continued submission.

That cosmetic makeover would minimally mean taking away the honorary academic title given to the Chinese Consul-General, a man with a background as a police officer, not an academic. It would mean promising to get rid of the Confucius Institute on campus as soon as is legally possible, while reducing its power over UQ academics and students immediately. This would entail not letting that Institute decide on the content of course material, getting some outside academic group to judge the content of China-related courses, and actively outlawing violent pro-Party activities on campus.

Otherwise, not much would change except for small adjustments in personnel and rhetoric. Hoj and Varghese out, replaced by a “fresh team” of people who can be trusted to keep happy all the current interest groups who have their claws in the place. The new team would come in with lots of promises and noise, announcing to do lots more “human rights initiatives” (like those “Paris principles” UQ just signed up to), meanwhile doing the exact opposite, just like Peter Hoj himself when he arrived there about 8 years ago.

Behind the scenes in this scenario, UQ management, and particularly its next vice-chancellor would try and patch up relations with the Chinese consulate as much as possible to still attract new Chinese students, though of course also trying to diversify the foreign student portfolio. So they wouldn’t say anything negative about the Consulate but simply talk of “taking away any possible impression that…”, “representing various views on campus….”, “fully respecting free speech of course…” and all the other blabla that comes with saving face.

An on-campus police would continue to exist to terrify the UQ academics, who have been understandably silent during the whole Drew Pavlou affair, totally cowed and intimidated as they have been for years. There would certainly be no return of free speech for academics, though students would be allowed a bit more leeway.

This has got to be the front-runner in terms of what happens next at UQ: an embarrassed Brisbane elite organising a cosmetic make-over for UQ, meanwhile ensuring little really changes. It is politically the route of least resistance.

What would a complete overhaul mean? To see what it would take, one needs to realise some of the deeper problems that now exist at UQ:

  1. UQ owns a lot of property throughout Queensland and has set up side-firms and organisations to manage that property, which means it has become entangled in the property mafia that is very connected and powerful in Queensland, something I wrote about with Cameron Murray in “Game of Mates”. This property has spawned a group of ex-UQ administrators who administrate and get rents out of all that property and who are invested in the question of who will run UQ next.
  2. The UQ campus has made property deals with developers and business people who run the student dormitories on that campus. This is big business worth hundreds of millions, of which the university gets a slice. It means there is a whole set of legal obligations and business networks around UQ management that would drag many a well-meaning administration into the mud, let alone a management that is more than happy to start in the mud from the get-go.
  3. UQ has made deals with foreign universities (like in China) to send it students on which a lot of money is made. Similarly, it has made deals with language-provision companies, insurance companies, legal firms, and lots of other commercial entities in Brisbane who make money from servicing foreign students and doing other business with the university. This too provides a very corrupting force on any UQ administration because it gives so many opportunities for getting bribes, lucrative positions, cosy commissions, board jobs for retired UQ administrators, etc. It also means those outside companies, including top legal firms in Brisbane, have an interest in continued business with the university, which gives them an interest in resisting any true attempt at a clean-up.
  4. UQ has made implicit deals with Brisbane politicians not to rock the boat on whatever those politicians do. That is what my own case of 5 years ago so clearly revealed, when the University did the bidding of the council in suppressing research into racism on council buses, but by now its a worked-out system. So UQ academics are prevented via all these bogus “ethics committees” from looking at serious corruption of Queensland politicians and civil servants: essentially the “ethics rule” that is now enforced is that the corrupt have to agree to be researched. Some ethics! This system gives Brisbane politicians a strong incentive to want another corrupt management team to take over from any previous set at UQ: the Brisbane politicians fear a truly independent academia in the middle of the city. They might just do what a crime-and-corruption commission should do in Queensland but has been prevented from doing for over a decade. Corrupt local politicians need a corrupt and docile local university.
  5. There are many skeletons in the cupboard, including lots of UQ academics who took UQ to court for bullying. One cannot run a local dictatorship without forcibly shutting up the strange and the brave. UQ management has a whole list of people it has bullied over the years, and then had to fend off in the courts or compensate them to keep quiet. This is now oddly enough a protective layer for UQ management: if UQ truly cleans up, those skeletons will come back to haunt them. Openly acknowledging the bullying of the past would be a costly legal liability for any new management and would suck up a lot of time and effort, easily portrayed in the media as the failure of a new management.  All the little torturers who are still working for the university and who facilitated the bullying and profited in their own little way would be compromised and hence would resist opening up about the past. Not openly acknowledging the past means letting the little torturers continue and thus perpetuate the system of the past.

Total Corruption Cartoons and Comics - funny pictures from ...In short, UQ management is but the tip of the ice-berg of a totally corrupted system that encircles and constricts the University of Queensland. The corrupt network encircling it includes top-politicians, property developers, former UQ-managers, interested professional bodies (lawyers and medics in particular), and others. This is exactly the group that would normally decide how to actually “clean up” the University of Queensland in the Drew Pavlou affair.

I hope you can thus see why it is so unlikely that the present scandal will lead to a true clean up of the problems with the university and why hence a cosmetic make-over is so much more likely: most of the big movers and shakers in Brisbane have a lot to lose from a real clean-up. They might make room for the pro-American anti-CCP lobby that wants CCP influences gone from the UQ campus, but that’s not the same as letting go of their investments entirely. And the anti-CCP lobby has no real stake in cleaning up local corruption. Their interest is not the university community in Queensland. Not their fight.

Let’s dream a little though and think of some of the moves needed to truly clean up UQ.

Leadership: Grab the bull by the horns - Less Conversation More ActionObviously, it would need a whole team to come in, breaking down a lot of the previous control apparatus and working its way through new institutions and habits on campus. It would need unprecedented powers to sever previous contracts, including labour contracts (think of those police enforcers!), and to re-arrange the campus physically (those dorms!) and intellectually (those ethics rules!).

Frankly, such a thing could not be contemplated without real backing from the very top of Queensland and Brisbane politics. They would have to enact laws specifically designed to make the clean-up possible, such as breaking up many of the property deals and other legal obligations that would keep UQ in the mud. These politicians would have to own the new narratives and be ok with the new scrutiny that they themselves would fall under if a real university would once more arise in Brisbane.

This is basically unimaginable at present. Though I desperately want it, I can’t see it as a remotely realistic option. There is no appetite for it that I can see in the Brisbane elites, as one can gather from the quickest of glances at how the Brisbane Times is reporting the Drew Pavlou case.

The underlying problem, which is that of a totally corrupted layer running UQ and having many unseemly relations with big interest groups in Queensland, will thus probably persist and will ensure new scandals in the future as the next group of leaders becomes just as arrogant and dictatorial as the current mob. That machismo will inevitably over-reach itself, as it has done the last two administrations, leading to the next scandal. It is in the nature of local dictators to push the boundaries of their fiefdom, convinced of their own greatness and invincibility, till they run out of luck.

The previous vice-Chancellor Greenfield came up against the medical profession that resented the dilution of their educational reputation by having entry into the medical courses corrupted. Peter Hoj came up against an energetic innovative campaigner serious about human rights, who to his own surprise was backed up by powerful interests. So in both cases, an insular UQ management mob came up against the reality of outside forces they underestimated because they had gotten away with so much previously.

The next mob will surely be just the same, so it will be a cosmetic makeover followed by repression and corruption as usual for the next few years. It will remain painful for any real academic to be at UQ. But at least I now do think they will get the pleasure of more robust student protests on campus. Maybe those students will start to do the research and investigating that the academics are prevented from doing? Now, there’s a thought….

And what will happen to Drew Pavlou? They’ll reinstate him, hope he finishes his studies soon, suffer his antics whilst grinding their teeth, count the days till he leaves UQ, and then build him a statue once he is gone and can no longer actually bother them.

 

 

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I am and will always be Not Trampis
I am and will always be Not Trampis
4 years ago

how can any organisation suspend ANYONE yet give no reasons.

They were disgraceful with you but have gotten worse

paul frijters
paul frijters
4 years ago

the developments in just the last 2 days have been amazing. UQ management is not holding back, or at least, the PR firms and spokespersons they have hired are not holding back.

Aaron Patrick in an The afr article on the case mentions that “A university spokeswoman mocked the student for allegedly being a “virgin” ”

Drew Pavlou claims to have heard from 4 journalists that the PR firms tried to dissuade them from running articles on him by describing him as a “violent racist”.

If true, this would seem both sexual harassment and a clear violation of the rules under which PR firms operate.

I have myself noted that on twitter, there are an awful lot of bot-type responses now oriented towards Drew Pavlou. You know the type: regular western names following 80 generic news cites and with 30 followers, making all sorts of wild accusations and random noise directed towards Drew. This wasn’t there a month ago. It’s very recent.

So there is a no-holds barred professional campaign directed at Drew Pavlou now. Paid for with public money. Openly cheered on by a foreign power, perhaps coordinated with it.

At the same time, the Brisbane Times has told us the federal education minister Dan Tehan has gotten involved, putting heat on the Chancellor Varghese, who subsequently put out that back-tracking statement. Its hard to imagine the education minister doing such a thing without backing from others in cabinet.

So powerful interests are getting involved in this case. It seems to me we are seeing a desperate last-minute gambit by Hoj and Varghese, trying to provoke or smear Drew into something really damning before they get pushed out themselves.

One can well and truly bring out the popcorn for this.

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
4 years ago

Thanks Paul,

Incredible stuff.

It’s a huge credit to you that you

* have put in all the effort you have on the case here and previously
* reference the outrages that occurred to you in such a measured way (very few people survive that kind of treatment without it looming so large for them that they put it at the centre of things).

I am nominating you for living national legend status (in absentia and in the ‘multicultural’ category)

Seriously – I’m proud to be your friend!

#BondVillainsRock!

Jon Butttery
Jon Butttery
4 years ago

Well done – a very interesting piece and very well written. It’s very rare to read such a piece that analyses such systemic corruption so clearly.

Is UQ an outlier and or is it different at other universities in Australia?

Freespeechmovement
Freespeechmovement
4 years ago

The absence of UQ academics speaking out is striking.

You might have thought some would have the guts to speak up, even knowing that they would probably also be persecuted.

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desipis
desipis
4 years ago

That was an interesting read. As someone who graduated from UQ, the years since have not exactly filled me with pride. Yet they still have the nerve to regularly beg me for donations.

If you want to go through the looking glass and read the perspective of someone who contributed to the trumped up complaints against Drew, you can read this.

R. N. England
R. N. England
4 years ago

Some counter-advocacy here.

paul frijters
paul frijters
4 years ago
Reply to  R. N. England

yes, Chinese media celebrating the suspension of an Australian student because of his anti-ccp activities. It tells you the case has become a symbol, a test of the influence of the cpp in Australia.

What’s your position on this case RN?

R. N. England
R. N. England
4 years ago
Reply to  paul frijters

I only skimmed both because I’m not interested enough to delve into the finer points of these conflicts, but I think Australian universities are ripe for reform. Their business model, of selling tickets to a life of superior remuneration, is straight out of the Middle Ages when the Church sold tickets to heaven.

Barrow
Barrow
4 years ago

Universities are not trail, judge ,or Jury
They are mostly Taxpayer funded
Institutions, who incidentally
Should mind there own Business.
Virtue signaling leftist ideologies
Which has consumed these universities
Has no place here in Australia!! Communist
China is a dictatorship who welds
The iron fist over its terrified people’s
And for that matter any other nation
That Questions its brutal human rights violations as one Example!! Shame !!

David
David
4 years ago

Good article!

This is a Unversity that thought it was a good idea to give a despot like Joh an honorary degree.

And on top of that encourage overseas students to quarenteen in third world countries appalling , imo No way would that get thru ethics.

And yet we have to sit thru ethics videos hosted by Hoj

Frank
Frank
4 years ago

Excellent piece Paul.

That UQ executive sought advice, support and approval from the Chinese Consulate, a direct arm of the CCP, on how to deal with protesting Australian citizens, is nothing short of treason.

It appears that there were unknown mature age Chinese who had made attempts to conceal their identity, entered UQ campus and made attempts to intimidate and initiate violence against Drew.

I commend Drew on his bravery and hope one day to meet him and shake his hand. Drew is a patriot (acknowledged a left leaning one; not relevant, he is still a patriot) caught in the middle of a storm brewing between western democracy and communism who hasn’t backed down.

The point you made in the comments about PR firms mocking Drew’s alleged virginity sickens me. It shows the low level of decency these people uphold themselves to; and how uncivilized these people are. Fancy being a Chancellor associated with such filthy behaviour against a student. How shameful.

The only point I would disagree on is where you have said in the above comment replies that Drew is a young man with nothing to loose, on the contrary, he has received death threats against himself and his family, not to mention the 2 years of successful academic work he has achieved, including the receival of awards.

Thanks for taking the time and effort to highlight what’s going on here Paul.

R

Frank

paul frijters
paul frijters
4 years ago
Reply to  Frank

thanks Frank.

There are many threads for investigators to pursue in this tale, important for the question of Australian sovereignty but also the question of arbitrary para-legal processes in Australian academia.

One thread to pull is, as you hint at, just what happened in 2019 with those Hong-Kong related demonstrations and counter-demonstrations. There is cctv footage showing unknown people who havent yet been traced, but the same footage also shows lots of known students involved in the demonstrations and counter-demonstrations. Those known students can be asked questions. It’s pretty clear what happened in a broad sense, but the question of silence, organisation, and complicity is also important: just how were these different demonstrations organised, and in particular the counter-demonstration? Was a group of students just told to show up and demonstrate against the pro-democracy Hong Kong protesters? If so, who told them and how? There is a lot to pursue there.

A second such thread is the operation of UQ management around this case. Despite the strange protestations to the contrary by the chancellor and a UQ spokesperson, there is no way the case against Drew was not organised and orchestrated by the two Peters. They have official organisational roles in the disciplinary process, have set up some of those very processes, and of course are involved in executive decisions, such as around hiring law firms to represent the “University’s position” in the Drew case. What other position is that ‘official position’ but that of the chancellor and the vice-chancellor? Has someone stolen their university from underneath them for a year and been running an unwanted campaign against one of their own students without their knowledge? Its a ludicrous lie.

Instead of spending time on that obvious lie though, there are again questions of organisation. Who briefed the hired legal hands and how? Who else in UQ management was involved? Are there minutes of various meetings? Was information shared with the Chinese Consulate? Was action against Drew coordinated with the Chinese Consulate at particular points (and not just merely in those demonstrations: we’d also want to know about some of those complainants)?

There are deeper questions, particularly if one truly thinks of this as treason, as to whom else was in the loop. As my post makes clear, the two Peters are not an island. They operate in a political network that appointed them, profited from them, and backed them up in the many previous scandals of the last 10 years. How were they involved in the Drew Pavlou affair: who in the Brisbane political setting tacitly or explicitly approved of the approach taken towards Drew Pavlou and the operation of the Chinese consulate on the UQ campus?

Then there are some questions interesting for the whole of Australian academia and the running of disciplinary processes. One such question is this whole business of complaints that UQ management is trying to hide behind: the idea that one simply has to “act on received complaints”. This case makes one wonder just how many complaints a university actually gets, particularly since some of the complainants in this case are from other states and seemed to have been triggered by fairly flimsy issues.

This makes one wonder whether the university perhaps gets thousands of complaints every month and thus could go after anyone they wanted to go after at any time by simply opening the file of ridiculous complaints against them, in stead of ignoring them as they will by necessity need to do for most complaints? Is it the case that Australian academia has lots of little tin-pot wannabe dictators who spend their evenings writing complaint letters about people and issues they don’t like? It would seem so, in which case a wider discussion should be had as to the total discretion this creates on the side of university management to go after anybody who upsets them for any other reason, in which case the decision to take complaints seriously should not be in the hands of university management (who would have ulterior motives), but some other system, just like in the case with actual police systems. So the question of separation of powers comes into view. Perhaps it should not be officers in individual universities at all (management or otherwise) who should look at complaints if there are so many of them that their very volume creates tempting discretion.

Etc. If one thinks through what has really happened here, there are a lot threads to pull that are important for many issues around free speech, sovereignty, and academic administration. The Drew Pavlou case in that sense could be used to clean up a lot of problem in Australian academia.

These things have obvious lines of inquiry since these universities and networks have all kinds of middle-men doing the bidding of various people. They normally talk if put under enough pressure. So the people doing the liaising with those PR firms will probably talk about who told them to do what. The HR involved in the investigation around Drew and the complaints university get will also probably squeal if put under enough pressure: they don’t make millions like their bosses and they won’t want to lie in a court of law when the pressure is on.

We’ll see which threads the journalists and others will pull. This case will keep providing stories.

John R Walker
4 years ago
Reply to  paul frijters

Paul this UQ complaints process would in itself be expensive to administer ( on top of their spend on lawyers ). Is UQ as a publicly funded body required to publish detailed accounts of what they spend?

Marko H
Marko H
4 years ago

Paul, much as I admire your public health work, I think your active imagination is over fertile on this one, seeing a corrupt monolithic conspiracy behind every word cranked out by a sadly click-hungry press. When there is a choice between conspiracy and cockup, after a life of observing and participating, I default to the cock-up. It explains so much more, including in this case. On China in particular, the whole country is reassessing it’s dependence on a state that we were welcoming into the liberal order until the reality of its new dictator sank in, and it is an extremely painful process, not being done fast enough perhaps, but I somehow doubt the various governance arms at UQ have all had their heads in the sand. I suspect the grown-ups there were quietly dealing with it before Pavlou’s noisy narcissism distracted everyone from the hard background work always needed to turn institutional tankers around.

paul frijters
paul frijters
4 years ago
Reply to  Marko H

“I somehow doubt the various governance arms at UQ have all had their heads in the sand”

not in the sand, agreed, but in the trough. No conspiracy? Agreed, simply a greedy deal done by a dozen or so, backed by many others doing their own deals they dont want you to look at too closely.

It certainly has been a cock-up by the administration. They realised too late how the winds were changing in Australia when it comes to Chinese influence. And they f’d up by going after Drew in their usually corrupt and unethical manner, which they normally get away with.

If you read the posts I refer to early on you will see I make some similar observations to you about the winds of change on China.

I think the only point where we really disagree with is the nature of the UQ management and the surrounding networks. You seem to view them as benevolent and grown-up. I dont.

Marko H
Marko H
4 years ago

I think the line between good and evil crosses every human heart and perhaps have a slightly less judgmental view of doers than do other commentators. Many things are more easily said than done, especially in large organisations. I doubt there is a dirty dozen playing puppets as you suggest, much more likely many muddling through, which is not to say this is inevitable or ideal and indeed I look forward to a turnaround in leadership when it comes.

JJ
JJ
4 years ago

When the leadership sets a bad culture in a bureaucracy, you either do what you’re told or you leave. That’s the nature of bureaucracy. The sort of leadership chosen in the first place naturally reflects the drivers Paul has outlined.

My hunch (with only personal experience and anecdotal data) is that there is a lot more of such leadership and behaviour by bureaucracies these days. As someone who has had Minter Ellison sicced on me by a bureaucracy in an employment matter, my guess is that if you were ever able to gain the data, you would find they and their ilk are picking up a fair bit of such work.

Observer
Observer
4 years ago

They will be looking for a form of reprimand/mercy – to focus on Drew’s ‘noisy narcissism’ as Marko puts it. But they will be scared as Drew is not just a noisy narcissist (sic) but a very clever and persistent young political operator with a powerful constituency behind him. So they will be wondering if this approach will work.

And it probably won’t, because there are at least three sets of support for Drew i.e. anti China, pro student protest/free speech , and anti corporatised Universities. (And as a bonus add in some people who want to get rid of Varghese and Hoj). None of these which will be appeased by a reduced penalty for Drew.

paul frijters
paul frijters
4 years ago
Reply to  Observer

I agree with this, but that is exactly why I think they’ll basically throw the case out soon, ie the whole disciplinary process is declared nil and void, which allows the option of starting again. That leaves Drew and others with no target to aim for regarding his personal situation. The attention then moves towards the Consulate activities on campus on which there is a lot of cross-party consensus within Australia that these activities need to stop, and which lends itself well as an issue to the free-speech on campus lobby and anti-corporatised lobby too. That’s why the university has to take action on the Confucius Institute and the issue of the consul-general.
I am not holding my breath for more reforms than that, but of course am hopeful.

John R Walker
4 years ago

Pass the popcorn.
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-06-04/anti-china-activist-drew-pavlou-uq-senate-hearing/12320016

“An alleged victim of suspended university student Drew Pavlou has rejected suggestions he felt threatened by the anti-Chinese Government activist, and says a complaint involving him was “manufactured”, in an email produced by Mr Pavlou’s lawyers.
The revelation comes as the University of Queensland (UQ) senate prepares to convene tomorrow to review Mr Pavlou’s two-year suspension, after the university’s chancellor Peter Varghese expressed concern at the severity of the punishment.

As well as his anti-Chinese Communist Party protests, one of the 11 allegations against Mr Pavlou in the 186-page dossier of complaint alleges students felt “harassed, bullied, threatened or abused” by a foul-mothed social media exchange on his private Facebook account.

However, one of those students — who asked not to be identified — emailed Mr Pavlou’s lawyer Tony Morris QC, saying:

“To my knowledge two of the people involved in the exchange did not make formal complaints to UQ – and I certainly have not.
“Apparently the complaint mentions that I was ‘distressed’ which is from my point of view laughable.
“While I think it was characteristically crass of him to write to a female friend the way he did I feel this complaint has been largely manufactured.”

paul frijters
paul frijters
4 years ago
Reply to  John R Walker

it is absolutely popcorn time. I expect the UQ Senate to throw out the case against Drew tomorrow. I also expect to see announced resignations soon of Hoj and Varghese. Their positions now seem totally untenable to me.

This evidence of fabrication is a bombshell that will have large consequences, and not just for UQ management. It opens many lines of criminal inquiry that will now almost surely be taken up, I think.

For instance, I imagine the offices of Minter Ellison to be very busy right now with people brainstorming as to how to cover their *sses, since they wrote legal advice that effectively endorsed the Drew investigation report uncritically. The question becomes in which other cases they have been so uncritical. Have their presentations in actual court cases been done on the basis of evidence they should have realised was fabricated? There is a lot of damage to scope for them. I would be surprised if the peer-processes within the legal profession in Queensland will not get involved. They will investigate MinterEllison, I think, as well as other legal firms that have done UQ’s bidding in recent years.

Then, there is the question of previous (court) cases that UQ has been involved in, usually arising on the basis of investigation reports produced within UQ. Those are now all suspect too. I imagine lawyers of these victims thinking about pressing claims against UQ.

I think criminal investigations too will now be opened given the grief done to individuals. Surely the police will take an interest in just how the fabrication of evidence at UQ happened in Drew’s case and whether this has been normal in the past. I am not a lawyer, but it seems outright criminal behaviour to me to make up false evidence with the intent to hurt someone’s livelihood and reputation. I myself have email evidence of a UQ “investigator” essentially asking Peter Hoj whether he was happy with the draft of an investigation report, like a dog asking his master for approval, showing Hoj’s habit of direct involvement in the outcome of investigations.

I think it now likely that Hoj and Varghese and others in UQ management are going to have to testify about their roles in these disciplinary matters. Did they put undue pressure on UQ administrators to find or fabricate incriminating stories on Drew and others they wanted pursued? That would seem to me to constitute criminal behaviour.

There is also the question of the total failure of the oversight authorities in Queensland regarding public misconduct of Hoj/Varghese, and others. I am thinking of the Ombudsman and the Crime and corruption commission here. They have, I know, received various complaints with a lot of detailed information in the past. What the crime and corruption commission used to do is simply ask UQ management whether there was any truth in such allegations, who then said “we have found no such evidence”, and that was then relayed to the complainer in something like 99 out of a 100 cases! Rob Pyne tabled evidence of such things in Queensland parliament. Now this system of rubber-stamping corrupt behaviour by the oversight committees will hopefully also come into view.

The opening of the cesspits of UQ is a surprising, but very welcome development. Those cesspits are deep and full (my point 10 in the post).

John R Walker
4 years ago
Reply to  paul frijters

Paul it is A synonym of corrupt is , rust .

John R Walker
4 years ago
Reply to  paul frijters

Sorry about the typo
It seems obvious that the reason why this fabricated stuff slipped in to the Reid was nobody bothered to ,read cross-check the docs. And that ‘dog that didn’t bark’ aspect of this tale says a lot about UQ as a academic institution.

Paul Norton
Paul Norton
4 years ago

Paul, UQ is not alone in the systemic problems of its internal disciplinary processes. Here is the Student Misconduct Policy of another university in south-east Queensland.

https://policies.griffith.edu.au/pdf/Student%20Misconduct%20Policy.pdf

To summarise:

* the “decision-makers” who play a pivotal role in receiving complaints, initially investigating them and, in the case of less serious cases, determining them and imposing penalties on students, are all senior managers;

* the power to impose an “interim suspension” is vested in the Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor;

* the Student Misconduct Committee consists of three members, all appointed by the Vice Chancellor;

* “The misconduct appeals committee is appointed by the Vice Chancellor for the purpose of hearing a particular appeal [my emphasis], and comprises” three members, all appointed by the Vice Chancellor.

All of this is a very considerable centralisation of control of the process in the hands of senior managers generally, and the VC in particular, compared to when my associated with this university began 29 years ago.

paul frijters
paul frijters
4 years ago

[update on the case]

Against my expectations, the UQ Senate has not thrown out Drew Pavlou’s case today in its specially convened meeting to discuss the case and how UQ management should handle it. In a marathon session lasting some 3.5 hours, the UQ Senate effectively decided to do nothing and stick to previous procedure.

So Drew can’t yet uncork the champagne. No doubt we will soon get to hear about the conflicting opinions within the UQ Senate that have led to the stalemate in this case.

I am truly surprised at this delay in acquitting Drew. It raises the stakes further in that all the individual UQ Senators will now have to explain why they didn’t throw out the case because they are sticking with a process that now reeks on all sides. By not throwing it out and forcing Drew and his council to make their case in front of yet another committee, the UQ Senate is now much more responsible for the steps taken so far. It means the pressure and thus the eventual damage to current UQ management is going to increase further. Perhaps it gives UQ management more time to put the paper-shredders on full blast? Or perhaps it just tells you how many Senators really hate Drew’s guts for his antics on the Senate the last year or so?

It does point to the likelihood that Peter Varghese, who will have run this UQ Senate meeting, has a plan he believes will save his further career. A plan for which he needs time.

The saga continues!

Marko H
Marko H
4 years ago
Reply to  paul frijters

Either that, or perhaps they are muddling through, just normal if somewhat above average people, some full timers, some unpaid part-timers, doing their best, following due process in an established and evolved governance system with actual separation of powers, actually trying to fulfil their duty in extreme circumstances. No cause for surprise, or conspiracy of a dirty dozen led by an evil duo. It’s just how most large institutions work now, however imperfect the outcomes might be. The arc of the governance universe is long, but it bends toward probity (with apologies to ML King).

I am inclined to stick with judicial and umpiring first principles and give them the benefit of the doubt, of which there is plenty in this febrile court of public opinion, where “evidence” and argument, such as it is, consists mostly of social media posts and media stories written on the dubious strength of them.

Fred H
Fred H
2 years ago
Reply to  Marko H

Marko H, seems to be very cagily trying to seem casual but defending the University.

Declare your interests Marko H.

JJ
JJ
4 years ago

What a great civilised discussion about a critical topic!

It seems to me that this post is highlighting something that perhaps has changed markedly in the last 30 years. And there appear to be (at least) two perspectives. Marko and John Walker appear to present comments supporting the viewpoint of the usual stuff-ups and muddling through – which I agree are always present.

However there is another perspective to which I have come, having noticed considerable changes in senior management (and society) in the last 30 years. And that is that power has accrued to senior management, the types of people who are promoted are different and those people are often arrogant and consider themselves untouchable. Norms of behaviour which once would have been seen as beyond the pale can now be seen as acceptable. There is a danger in romanticising the past – but some times it is actually different.

So I find it quite plausible that they haven’t bothered to check the statements because they aren’t used to being questioned. I also find it quite plausible that lawyers play along with this, because that’s the way it is done these days.

I think the arc of governance is bending towards the ‘appearance’ of probity, but in reality it is bending the other way. You can have dozens of probity advisers, but if it is accepted behaviour behind the scenes for investigators to check everything with the VC quietly, they will make no difference (but of course will be quoted left right and centre). And this isn’t just UQ….

I understand this issue as a deep systemic change and probably the only thing that can change our society over the longer term is exactly the types of networked politics that Drew Pavlou is employing.

In the meantime, I’m not holding my breath for real systemic change at UQ.

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
4 years ago
Reply to  JJ

I’m an ‘always suspect a stuff up’ guy too JJ, but I also agree with you that things have got worse in certain ways – which are not that easy to put one’s finger on.

I think there are a lot of people in senior positions who are basically just pretending. They’ve realised that since we’re so hung up about external incentives and ‘accountability’ it’s actually pretty impossible to hold people accountable in the white out of media management. They get amazingly far.

I’d love to put my finger on this – and am trying in my own way.

I ran into this gem last night from early ‘neoliberal’ Michael Polanyi which you’ll see in an essay I’m writing when I’ve finished it. (In case you’re interested, he was a Keynesian and dropped out of the Mont Pelerin Society after 1955 complaining to Hayek that it had narrowed its focus to economics (which was further narrowed to a regulatory formula).

Thinking about Soviet science he wrote this in 1939.

The State cannot maintain and augment the sphere of thought which can only live in pursuit of its own internal necessities, unless it refrains from all attempts to dominate it, and further undertakes to protect all men and women who would devote themselves to the service of thought, from interference by their fellow citizens, private or official whether prompted by prejudice or guided by enlightened plans. The position of science in society is thus seen to be merely a special feature of the position of thought in society.

That describes the problem of evidence-based policy right there. Just as truth is the first casualty of war, candour is the first causality of bureaucracy. And it describes what’s going on in UQ.

John R Walker
4 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

“a lot of people in senior positions who are basically just pretending. “

Reminds me of the Kurosawa film ,Kagemusha.
Plot :A petty thief with an utter resemblance to a samurai warlord is hired as the lord’s double. When the warlord later dies the thief is forced to take up arms in his place.

John R Walker
4 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

Nicholas
The sectors enormous growth over the past 30 years, was in itself a driver of the need for more administrators and their need for evermore formalised standards and stifling conformity .

Observer
Observer
4 years ago

I looked at the UQ senate membership and it is really boring and conventional. I know of a few of them and they are ‘establishment’ in their thinking and will be coming at the issues from a corporate board member’s perspective.

That is, they will be thinking of what’s best for UQ as a corporate entity rather than say, philosophic conceptions of a what a University should be – e.g. fostering free thinking, beacon of enlightenment etc. Such considerations would be seen as second order.

So no, ‘where is the justice in this’, rather ‘what is best for UQ to manage the situation’.

Tangentially, one thing that shocked me was that Drew said he was donating his $50,000 stipend to charity. When did Senate stipends become that large? That itself, is an indicator of the corporatisation of the University problem.

Ross McKenzie
Ross McKenzie
4 years ago
Reply to  Observer

https://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/queensland-university-to-pay-senate-members/news-story/10cefa9e9890aff05ef281dfe179ba4b

(behind a pay wall)

Dec 12, 2017 – UQ’s governing body, its senate, last week approved a pay structure for itself, awarding chancellor Peter Varghese remuneration of $80,000, ..

Queenslander
Queenslander
4 years ago

The saddest thing about this saga is that UQ is effectively paralysed at a time when the sector is under immense challenge. The damage this will cause will far outlast the stays of Hoj and Pavlov.

A glimmer of hope is that the new VC will be quite happy (and have a mandate) to enact some sweeping changes. I expect the handpicked senior management to be out by years end, and hopefully a critical examination of some of Hoj’s follies, including the Ramsay Centre and the Andrew Liveris building and Academy.

Marko H
Marko H
4 years ago
Reply to  Queenslander

Agree sadness and new broom opportunity. Don’t agree Ramsay is a Hoj folly, isn’t it an affirmation of freedom of expression, even more so in context of Con Institute which looked good pre-Xi but is now a nightmare? Don’t know anything about Liveris building but see comment below about uni funding.

Queenslander
Queenslander
4 years ago
Reply to  Marko H

Good points. I understand that there are differing points of view on the value of Ramsay Centres in Austrailian universities. It was the process by which senior management railroaded the Centre through after the faculty board of studies twice rejected it that is my main issue, and symptomatic of the whole culture which Paul’s article uncovers.

For Liviris, indeed a lot of money flowing in, but seemingly with no consideration of reputation risk down the track. Articles like the 2018 AFR one linked below should make one very wary.

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
4 years ago

Ah – the Ramsay Centre. I’d lost track of where that ended up. UQ would be just the ticket. The Ramsay and Confucious Centres. The B1 and B2 of university learning. There’s incentivisation right there.

Marko H
Marko H
4 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

I’m genuinely curious – in what way do you equate the two centres, apart from the trivial, obvious one that both come with funding (albeit serious funding from a high-minded, philanthropic source representing a great deal of what is good about Australia in one case, even if you don’t like it, and minimal, calculatingly-leveraged funding from a totalitarian dictatorship in the other)? I can’t argue against alien opinions if I can’t begin to understand them. All great universities have had to be creative about funding over the centuries, painful though the process might be, and know too well why learning is not served by being subservient to the government if the day. What am I missing?

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
4 years ago

Thanks Mark,

I was connecting the two institutes through Hoj. I know only the basics of the Pavlou case and Paul Frijter’s case which are enough to confirm me in the view that Hoj should not be in charge of the UQ, and to leave me unsurprised that, in comparison with other universities who turned away the Ramsay Centre because of its controversial nature, Hoj hopped in for his chop.

This was not a black and white assessment of the Centre. On the one hand I love Western culture and think a centre dedicated to its unapologetic promotion is a good idea. Having John Howard as the chair suggests that its dedication to Western Culture is situated in the culture wars, not in the grand achievements of Western Culture. It suggests it’s not a very serious operation intellectually and isn’t a good start. However, having Abbott on the board and one of the chief spruikers strongly suggests bad faith to me. What risks has Tony Abbott taken for Western Culture lately – or ever other than in the sense of prosecuting the culture wars – and helping undermine the Western value of conserving the planet.

I know nothing of the Confucius Institute beyond its role in this saga. So my comment addresses appearances which are not attractive.

paul frijters
paul frijters
4 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

+1

The most positive thing I can say about Abbott is that as health minister he championed the effort to introduce eHealth in this country. That was a good initiative.
John Howard has a much longer list of things I commend him for. Abolition of guns is high on that list. I also really like how he managed to appear on the side of the Americans in the Iraq war without putting significant numbers of troops in danger.

I also like the basic idea of a confident center that celebrates Western culture. Indeed, we should do more of that in the regular school curriculum. Our societies need a positive narrative that inspires and in which everyone can join.

Paul Norton
Paul Norton
4 years ago

I meant to write “my association with this university” in my comment above.

paul frijters
paul frijters
4 years ago

Observer,

I have always disliked the word corporatisation when applied to the university because these universities are really only corporate in appearances, not in the basic structure of how they function. So the appearance comes with KPIs, suits-and-ties, CEOs and CFOs, and that jazz.

But the actual operation is very different. Mainly, universities are officially non-profits and have a large land-and-building endowment from the government and from previous decades, an endowment they are by law supposed to use for teaching and research. Management has simply taken control over those resources (mainly by setting up these secret paralegal structures) and gives itself as much of its benefits as possible whilst cloaking that grabbing of community resources as corporate.

The inner workings are thus more like that of a royal court. I have written a 5-page article on that years ago in Agenda (run from the ANU, link below), though I have found its difficult for Australians to really engage with that analogy as they didnt grow up with stories of royal courts. But that still is the better analogy for current universities because royal courts also had secret police, total discretion, a huge disconnect between the pretense and the reality, and a large group of fairly useless people in those courts whose main job was to protect the king and sign his praises.

You dont get that enormous inefficiency in a real corporation.

https://www.jstor.org/stable/43200632?casa_token=rgOUOtiEurQAAAAA%3AkGGQkj1VYnAlxxPJe1wQgsmsWYgZcT4y4JS6zwVhPfG-kfCmZ05Et8lCt_5AvusFsM_soRr7jULSU-lI1JjvGH0g57soaFdit33kiUiE592Ws1H_&seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents

John R Walker
4 years ago
Reply to  paul frijters

Paul for some reason I am reminded of Gilbert and Sullivan:
“I grew so rich that I was sent
By a pocket borough into Parliament
I always voted at my party’s call
And I never thought of thinking for myself at all
No, he never thought of thinking for himself at all
I thought so little, they rewarded me
By making me the Ruler of the Queen’s Navy
He thought so little, they rewarded he
By making him the Ruler of the Queen’s Navy”

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
4 years ago

Thanks Paul, For those without access to the link you provided, they can download the article from here.

Appalled
Appalled
4 years ago

I just read about this last night on news.com.au and was gobsmacked that this was happening in Australia.

It’s absolutely shocking behaviour from a tertiary institution and the prestigious law firms defending it. This unethical and corrupt behaviour needs to be addressed and not swept under a rug.

Please keep doing the good work you are doing.

paul frijters
paul frijters
4 years ago

Slight update 3 weeks on.

The UQ Senate seems to have let Varghese and Hoj play out their exit strategy. They have gone ahead with pursuing Drew, getting UQ-paid lawyers to threaten him a bit more and to advise the Senate appeals committee to uphold the kangaroo-court conviction of Drew. The two Peters hence seem to be bunkering down, trying to incriminate the rest of the Senate as much as possible via getting them to rubber-stamp their previous and ongoing decisions in this case. The two Peters will be trying to cover their previous tracks. Those senators must be particularly docile to allow all this.

The question for Drew is thus one of external pressures. He continues to do his best to get attention for his causes (Tibet/Uygurs/Hong Kong) and has instigated various court cases against UQ management and the Chinese Consulate General. However, what matters is whether powerful interests are really helping him.

As I indicated above and repeat below, one form of pressure is to pull the threads of the actions by the consulate on the 2019 counter-demonstrations. That now has been confirmed to be occurring due to a complaint by Drew. It is tempting to think those investigations are part of a wider push to get the police involved in the activities of the Chinese consulate in Australia. A Labour MP’s house got raided today as the police and ASIO are pushing back against CCP influence in Australia. This is exactly the playbook I sketched in a previous post on Drew, where I indicated that the security forces were pro-American and could bring that muscle to bear in this case. It seems like the Queensland police at least feels supported in their current investigations by the other security agencies going after Chinese agents elsewhere. After all, these ASIO investigations need backing from the PM and other top politicians, so there clearly is high-level political power pushing against CCP influence now. However, we’ll see where this goes.

In other external pressure, the Pavlou case has now made the German and Italian newspapers, all running on his storyline of UQ management doing the bidding of the CCP. News.com has similarly been running pro-Drew stories of late. The Australian and other newspapers that were regularly running Pavlou stories seem to be waiting for new developments to run more of those, but with the police probes now looking like they are actually happening, it seems to me Drew’s case too will get renewed interest, particularly next week when his Appeal’s hearing is held.

On the wider front, its clear Australian-Chinese ties are getting worse, just like the pro-American lobby will have hoped for. Chinese authorities are now discouraging the Chinese to study or visit Australia, which will have impact for years to come on the Australian economy, but also means UQ’s management has to operate in a more generally adverse political climate to their CCP links: as the economic ties with China weaken, their political influence in Australia also weakens.

Hence I remain confident Drew will win this and there is further big trouble for the two Peters coming and UQ leadership in general.

What I said in a previous comment about investigations:
“One thread to pull is, as you hint at, just what happened in 2019 with those Hong-Kong related demonstrations and counter-demonstrations. There is cctv footage showing unknown people who havent yet been traced, but the same footage also shows lots of known students involved in the demonstrations and counter-demonstrations. Those known students can be asked questions. It’s pretty clear what happened in a broad sense, but the question of silence, organisation, and complicity is also important: just how were these different demonstrations organised, and in particular the counter-demonstration? Was a group of students just told to show up and demonstrate against the pro-democracy Hong Kong protesters? If so, who told them and how? There is a lot to pursue there.

A second such thread …..

JJ
JJ
4 years ago

On a related note – I knew universities had problems, but was astonished to hear David Runciman in a recent Talking Politics History of Ideas episode say that an Auditor had told him he couldn’t start his lecture series with Hobbs – what kind of insane system tells lecturers what they can and can’t cover??

Simon Seis
Simon Seis
4 years ago

Excellent article! There are certain parallels at many Australian universities and all have a roof cause if corporatisation and the consequent marginalisation of the academic body. Wish I’d found this article earlier. Just received the link from a comment on Michael Balter’s site. http://michael-balter.blogspot.com/2020/05/peter-rathjen-serial-sexual-predator.html?m=1#comment-form

Certainly the situation at Adelaide is/was exacerbated by thd same roof causes. A culture of expediency, bullying/harassment of people deemed not to matter and protection of senior management at all costs.

Well done Paul!

Simon Seis
Simon Seis
3 years ago

The appointment of Curtin’s Deb Terry as UQ’s new VC may be a good sign. I never expected UQ to pick an external in the damage control situation they’re in. Terry is well respected at Curtin and many I’ve spoken to say she will be missed. U.Adelaide, on the other hand, have chosen to keep it all in house so far. Branson, the new Chancellor is from the Council and was on the panel that appointed Rathjen! Moreover she was the chair of, wait for it, the audit, compliance and risk management committee!!! What’s the bet the new VC will be internal too? That is, Brooks. Business as usual at Adelaide.

Peter Gauci
Peter Gauci
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Seis

No. Terry will just be more of the same.

What catapulted her from head of school to acting VC there so swiftly was her corrupting one witness and threatening another in a sexual harassment case.

And don’t forget that she “restructured” Phil Procopis – the whistelblower in the Greenfield nepotism scandal – out of his job, then “couldn’t remember” if she’d mentioned that detail to the CCC.

Billie Kugelman
Billie Kugelman
3 years ago

Hi Paul, I’m an editor of the Union’s Semper Floreat doing a profile on VC Prof Terry. You write: “[Peter Hoj] looked after Greenfield in retirement via helping him with lucrative commissions and board positions.” Do you have any sources or specifics for this? Or perhaps anything else of interest regarding Terry? Regards, Billie Kugelman

paul frijters
paul frijters
3 years ago

Hi Billie,

my booklet (with Cameron Murray) “Game of Mates” talks of this. The easiest thing to do is look at Greenfield’s CV after his stint as VC. He got onto several prestigious boards and committees and remained affiliated with UQ. As of August 2016, he was in the board of directors of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, as well as the board of Healthy Waterways Ltd and the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering. He has probably had several other roles inside and outside of UQ after that. You dont get those roles without recommendations, support letters, and implicit help. Mates looking after themselves.