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UC heavying its journalism students?

By johnboy - 10 April 2012 13

Crikey is running a piece on efforts by the University of Canberra via lecturer Crispin Hull to stop journalism students digging into cuts by the the University.

the deputy dean of arts and design, professor Greg Battye, instructed Hull to pass on a message to me as the one remaining student refusing to withdraw their FOI request. Battye cited UC legal advice and said to let me know that if I continued with the FOI it could result in a breach of the student conduct rules. Such breaches can lead to expulsion or exclusion from university, or being failed in the subject involved. Battye claimed he had a legal opinion that the assessment required UC academic ethics clearance, which had not been sought.

However, ethics clearance has never previously been required for journalism students to write an assessable story?—?not even one about the University of Canberra. I believe this was just another attempt to frighten me off investigating a potentially negative story on UC by accessing documents through FOI.

UPDATE 10/04/12 5:19 The Canberra Times is running their former editor’s side of the story:

Mr Hull said yesterday the Crikey story was one-sided and said he had clearly defended his students from Professor Battye’s claim they risked breaching the UC’s ethical guidelines.

According to an email from Mr Hull to Professor Battye sent last Tuesday, Mr Hull said “First, there is no risk. As I tell students, every Australian has a legally enforceable right to ask for and obtain access to documents under FOI, so there cannot possibly be any ethics-committee requirements for such “research”, if indeed it even qualifies as “research”. Any legal advice you have to the contrary, in my view, is plainly wrong.’’

He also said that “such a warning, in my view, would be tantamount to bullying conduct, and I will not be a part of it.’’

Mr Hull noted that singling out the student who was pursuing an FOI request with the UC would also “appear extremely odd’’.

What’s Your opinion?


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13 Responses to
UC heavying its journalism students?
Grail 11:32 am 11 Apr 12

NoAddedMSG said :

Having been part of an FOI request, it can be very time consuming and involves a lot of people. I’d be pretty pissed off at having to go through all the paper work if I thought it was merely being done for a uni assignment and thus nothing significant was going to be done with the information once the course was over.

There is also the option of storing records correctly, facilitating retrieval when people want that information for any purpose. Surprisingly enough, avoiding the path of most resistance reduces the overall workload in records management.

devils_advocate 10:10 am 11 Apr 12

NoAddedMSG said :

Having been part of an FOI request, it can be very time consuming and involves a lot of people. I’d be pretty pissed off at having to go through all the paper work if I thought it was merely being done for a uni assignment and thus nothing significant was going to be done with the information once the course was over.

It’s only time consuming and tedious when the decision-maker is labouring to find exemptions to exclude everything they can (i.e. contrary to the underlying spirit of the law). When this happens, you end up struggling to come up with credible-sounding reasons to exclude things based on tenuous interpretations of the various exemptions and public interest arguments. Also invariably involves having to get legal advice to cover yourself in case it goes to appeal etc.

If on the other hand you actually take a pro-disclosure approach it can be as simple as photocopying some documents. In summary it’s about as difficult and time-consuming as the decision-maker chooses to make it.

Henry82 11:35 pm 10 Apr 12

NoAddedMSG said :

Having been part of an FOI request, it can be very time consuming and involves a lot of people. I’d be pretty pissed off at having to go through all the paper work if I thought it was merely being done for a uni assignment and thus nothing significant was going to be done with the information once the course was over.

fair enough.

Mr Evil 10:40 pm 10 Apr 12

UC and ethics – ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

HenryBG 10:17 pm 10 Apr 12

NoAddedMSG said :

Having been part of an FOI request, it can be very time consuming and involves a lot of people. I’d be pretty pissed off at having to go through all the paper work if I thought it was merely being done for a uni assignment and thus nothing significant was going to be done with the information once the course was over.

The obvious solution being to assign students in the FOI course into the FOI office to do the work of answering FOIs for the term.

Duh.

thatsnotme 10:13 pm 10 Apr 12

HenryBG said :

This is the same “University” that puts limits on the range of references you can use when writing an essay. Also, when enrolling for their DipEd coursees, they seem oblivious to the fact that 95% of their “students” are just halfwits “studying” PE.

You’ll learn *far* more spending 3 years on a building site. And you’ll get a deposit on your house of it into the bargain.

Yep, I reckon that a building site would be a great place to learn how to throw out mindless generalisations based on made up statistics. You seem very good at it – you must have studied very hard indeed!

HenryBG 10:07 pm 10 Apr 12

This is the same “University” that puts limits on the range of references you can use when writing an essay. Also, when enrolling for their DipEd coursees, they seem oblivious to the fact that 95% of their “students” are just halfwits “studying” PE.

You’ll learn *far* more spending 3 years on a building site. And you’ll get a deposit on your house of it into the bargain.

NoAddedMSG 8:55 pm 10 Apr 12

Having been part of an FOI request, it can be very time consuming and involves a lot of people. I’d be pretty pissed off at having to go through all the paper work if I thought it was merely being done for a uni assignment and thus nothing significant was going to be done with the information once the course was over.

drfelonious 7:16 pm 10 Apr 12

FOI is something that is good in theory, but in practice it is a nightmare to administer – especially if it is open to anyone to FOI something just because they feel like it or they are a crackpot.

I reckon you should have to at least establish some kind of personal interest in the information.

As for journalists having the ‘rights’ to information, I think that is a bit much for a profession that claims the right to create stories from unattributed sources and expects people to respond at a moments notice to ‘information’ from such sources. Before they should have an untrammelled right to FOI, they should be an open book as well – what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

c_c 6:13 pm 10 Apr 12

So Lauren Ingram is saying:

“we received an email from our lecturer, Crispin Hull, asking us, on behalf of UC to withdraw our FOI applications.”

And Crispin Hull says a day later that the UC is wrong and:

“such a warning, in my view, would be tantamount to bullying conduct, and I will not be a part of it.’’

but admits telling students to not FOI the Uni to ease the burden on FOI staff.

Sounds like he’s trying to have it both ways, and then deflect some of the blame by saying Lauren’s article is one sides, which though it may be is largely that way because the Uni wouldn’t comment.

johnboy 5:23 pm 10 Apr 12

And next year’s FOI course will be barred from FOI’ing UC.

Of course if asking the UC to answer student FOI queries is too much why should any other agency have to bear the cost?

johnboy 5:18 pm 10 Apr 12

The Canberra Times has their former editor’s side of the story.

c_c 5:14 pm 10 Apr 12

Ironic that Crispin Hull brags on his website about being a contributor to inquiries about freedom of speech.

Also ironic that having spent years at ANU to get a BA, then more years to subsequently get an LLB (which he misspells and perhaps even calls by the wrong name on his site), he ends up teaching journalism at UC and never gets beyond the regional rags.

If he passed on the message, he’s a gutless hypocrite. And if the Uni really instructed him to, then they’re corrupt.

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