Thursday, July 12, 2007

Police and unis violate campus civil liberties

Media academics, journos and students are up in arms over blatant violation of civil liberties at at least two Sydney universities - Uni of Sydney and UTS, as reported in the SMH "Uni lets police see personal records". UTS, for example, has given police access to student and staff information for two years without the subjects knowing anything about it. Since 2005, information has been handed over 22 times to the federal and NSW police, and the Australian Tax Office. One of the critics, Wendy Bacon, has protested in a message to staff:
Dear Colleagues,
It is ironic that when I was a student, universities prided themselves on being places where police intrusions would be resisted. In these days of creeping authoritarianism and securitisation, this is clearly no longer the case.
The reports that a range of state authorised investigation bodies might be given access to information on request will alarm many academics and students.
This issue needs to be discussed at the Faculty level ... However, this issue is of particular relevance to all those linked with forms of professional practice that involve confidential relationships. I will take Journalism as an example but lawyers,nurses, doctors, social workers and others will have similar concerns.
Journalists have a ethical obligation not to reveal confidential sources.
Journalists in the workplace rely on their employers to resist attempts to seek confidential information. Prudence of course means that Journalists use coded names, hide documents and are careful in all communications. Even if an interview is on the record for the purposes of publication however, a journalist does not usually or willingly allow that to be used for purposes of prosecution. We are journalists not arms of the state.
I would argue that the university should actively protect the independence of staff and students. In the meantime, we should consider all the practical ramifications of this situation. We already advise our students against recording the names of confidential sources and we will now reinforce that they should take extreme care with communications they conduct using UTS email and with the storage of digital and other material.
One of the dangers is that practices can become normalised. For example, I believe it is likely that part of the purpose of holding Dr Haneef so long is to establish a base line for detention in future cases. This is why some actions need to resisted on the basis of principle.

No comments:

>>> Popular Café Pacific Posts