In Italy, fortunately, we have not yet reached this point (perhaps because our academic system is more based on public funds and less dependent on private investment), but in Anglo-Saxon countries it happens more and more often that universities and research centers are refused funding because they do not follow the new fashions of political correctness. As we have already reported, last year in Canada a researcher was not able to obtain funding because his research project was not "inclusive of minorities" enough. In this article we tell how, more recently, Australia has been the scene of controversy of the same kind.
The facts are these. On February 28, the University of Melbourne awarded six honorary doctorates to six outstanding figures in various fields, from biology to veterinary science and entrepreneurship. At the ceremony, Provost Allan Myers explained that this distinction "is awarded to a person whose work has transformed our understanding of the world and the lives of many people."
However, in the eyes of many, the six awardees would have one "fault": that of being all male and white. That prompted the Snow Medical Research Foundation, one of Australia's largest nonprofits that finances medical research, on Monday, March 7, to sever its relationship with the Melbourne university and remove it from the list of those eligible to receive a fellowship. The foundation said the university's "outcomes on gender equality and diversity do not align with the values of Snow Medical." The foundation previously donated $24 million to Parkville, the University of Melbourne's main campus, which won two of their fellowships last year for a total of another $16 million.
Snow Medical's statement says verbatim: "Unfortunately, last week the University of Melbourne awarded their most prestigious award, their honorary doctorate, to six white men. Further, in the last three years, not a single honorary doctorate has been awarded to women or someone of non-white descent. This is unacceptable". In the last three years, the award had been given to two other men in 2020. In 2019, however, out of six winners three were women, and one of them was Pat Anderson, an Aboriginal and human rights activist.
That of no longer funding the university's medical research "has been a difficult decision for our family, but a decision we have made very proudly", bragged in a tweet Tom Snow, chairman of the foundation's board of directors.
There was no shortage of attempts by the university to resolve this issue so as not to lose funding. At the bottom of the release announcing this year's winners, a paragraph was added highlighting that other winners, including three women and a member of an indigenous minority, were unable to attend the ceremony in person and will be honored at a date yet to be determined.
On March 8, the day after the break in relations, a statement from the University of Melbourne explained:
While we acknowledge the areas where we need to improve, Snow Medical has made their decision on the basis of a single honorary doctorate event. This event is not a true reflection of who we are as a university and the steps we are taking, and continue to take, to build a diverse university community, reflective of broader society.
The release also notes that, as of 2019 to date, five of the six new board members are women.
There have been few critical comments in the Australian media about this excessive focus on the inclusion of certain categories at the expense of merit. Paul Murray, political commentator of "Sky News Australia", said that "this stuff is dangerous … because for all of this garbage there is going to be an equal and opposite reaction. What will happen when white males start to feel discriminated against because basically, increasingly they are, and they start banding together? It’s just dividing us".
Extent of the phenomenon
Over the years, there has been no lack of episodes that prove the widespread diffusion of the Woke ideology and the excesses of political correctness in Australia.
Recently the CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation), the main government body for scientific research, has stopped recognizing biological sex as the only valid criterion for defining a person's sexual identity. It has consequently decided to offer its staff licenses to undergo surgery in order to be "reassigned" to the sex they claim to identify with. In addition, all of their employees are required to take courses to be "trained" to accommodate various gender categories such as trans and non-binary. On the organization's website, researchers can write what pronoun they wish to be called by.
According to a research published in August 2020 by the Center for Independent Studies, an Australian libertarian think tank, after the killing of George Floyd there have been several attempts to import the ideology of Black Lives Matter and the cancel culture, with all that follows. In the same way that in the United States they targeted statues of Christopher Columbus, because he was accused of having initiated the extermination of Native Americans, in Sydney a statue of the British explorer James Cook, discoverer of Australia, was vandalized, which was traced back to the beginning of the oppression of the Aborigines.
Neighboring New Zealand isn't doing so much better, far from it. At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, they were the first country to send a biologically male person, weightlifter Gavin/Laurel Hubbard, to compete in women's competitions as a transgender. Also in 2021, the Royal Society of New Zealand began equating some indigenous Maori beliefs with modern science; to make matters worse, some academics affiliated with the body who challenged these positions were investigated by their employer. And there is no shortage of academics in New Zealand universities who accuse their country of being founded on imperialism and gender discrimination.
Ironically, New Zealand, which seems to want to make amends for an allegedly colonialist and sexist past, has been a bastion of rights in unsuspected times: in 1893, first in the world, it granted the right to vote to women; in 1867 it gave the right to vote to Maoris, about a century before it was granted to blacks in the United States.
Giornalista pubblicista, ha scritto per le testate Mosaico, Cultweek and Il Giornale Off. Laureato in Beni culturali (Università degli Studi di Milano) e laureato magistrale in Giornalismo, cultura editoriale e comunicazione multimediale (Università di Parma).