Murdoch University management is pursuing whistleblower staff member Associate Professor Gerd Schröder-Turk in the Federal Court, following unsuccessful mediation. University management is suing their staff member for millions of dollars in compensation after he publicly criticised the University’s international student education practices.
Following Schröder-Turk’s appearance on ABC’s Four Corners program in May 2019, a motion was put to the University Senate seeking to remove him from that body. He then commenced legal action attacking the legality of the move, as well as a decision conveyed by Murdoch’s lawyers that he was barred from speaking to fellow Senators about the motion.
In response, Murdoch University initiated a cross-claim against Associate Professor Schroder-Turk, claiming his actions caused Murdoch to suffer loss and damage because of a reduction in student enrolment. They are seeking millions of dollars in compensation.
National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) National President Dr Alison Barnes said today, “This is an unprecedented attack on academic governance and academic freedom.”
“The Associate Professor is the academic staff member elected by his peers. This attempt to silence the academic voice sends a chill through the entire higher education system, because academics must be involved in university governance at the highest levels.”
“The right of staff to speak freely about their teaching and research and question higher education policy and administration is fundamental to any university. It is the antithesis of academic freedom for a university to sue one of its staff for speaking out,” Dr Barnes said.
“The ongoing aggressive and legalistic approach of the University to its staff and their representatives will only exacerbate poor morale and staff retention. We’re aware that the University’s research profile is already being adversely affected, with Professor Robert Cribb resigning over these matters.”
“We think the public’s support of the Associate Professor should make Murdoch question its decisions. NTEU members from across the country have stood in solidarity with Gerd with a generous outpouring of support. We proudly recognise him as a member.”
The Court has listed the matter for case management hearing on Wednesday 11 December in Perth at 10.15 am.