Federal Labor MPs Lobby Sydney University To Drop CPACS Changes

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Pressure is mounting on the University of Sydney to back away from planned changes to its Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPACS), with Federal Labor MPs writing to the University and urging it to reconsider.

In a letter seen by New Matilda, three Federal MPs and four of their state counterparts have implored the institution not to “downgrade” the Centre into a mini-department.

The CPACS is headed by Associate-Professor Jake Lynch, and has campaigned outside of the classroom on a number of issues. Lynch and others involved in the Centre are concerned the changes to its structure will threaten that side of its operations.

So too are Federal MPs Melissa Parke, Maria Vamvakinou, and Laurie Ferguson, who along with state MPs Paul Lynch, Julia Finn, Lynda Voltz, and Shaoquett Moselmane have signed a letter protesting the restructure and sent to the Acting Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Professor Barbara Caine.

“CPACS’s efforts to promote debate on issues like accountability for war crimes in Sri Lanka, West Papua, Palestine and human rights generally provide the Australian and the global community with a sophisticated, alternative voice on topical and difficult issues, as reflected in acclamations for CPACS’ work by the likes of Dr Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu,” their letter says.

The letter goes on to urge the University to reconsider changing the Centre’s status.

“It cannot be good for our democracy and academic reputation to attenuate such voices. It would be particularly disturbing if a prestigious institution like Sydney University, by the simple expedient of withdrawing resources from CPACS, is seen to supress reflection and debate on important, even controversial, matters.”

The move follows similar action from NSW state Greens MPs, who wrote to the University earlier in the week warning the changes to the Centre could look like a ‘politically motivated attack’ to the broader community.

After being contacted for comment today, a spokesperson for University said they did not comment on correspondence with MPs. The University has previously argued the changes to the Centre are due to falling enrolments, but that has been disputed by Lynch.

Lynch has previously been the subject of controversy thanks to his support of the Boycott, Divestments, and Sanctions campaign. MPs who signed the letter, including Federal members Melissa Parke and Maria Vamvakinou, have been among Labor’s most outspoken supporters of Palestine.

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Max Chalmers

Max Chalmers is a former New Matilda journalist and editorial staff member. His main areas of interest are asylum seekers, higher education and politics.

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