New UQ boss tackles free-speech controversy


The new vice-chancellor of the state's most prestigious university says she is open to reviewing freedom of speech on campuses, as she steps into the position today.

Incoming University of Queensland vice-chancellor and president Deborah Terry told The Courier-Mail she was "absolutely" committed to freedom of speech.

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"Freedom of speech goes to the absolute core of what defines universities, what defines universities in this country and it is something that I will ensure is absolutely embedded here as I know my predecessors have been doing," she said.

UQ has been embroiled in controversy over the suspension of student activist Drew Pavlou, who has been outspoken about human rights abuses in China and the university's business ties to the country.

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan's said the Government would consider adapting a model code of conduct for Australian universities - developed by former High Court chief justice Robert French - after the Federal Circuit Court last month upheld the sacking of James Cook University academic Peter Ridd.


New UQ vice-chancellor Deborah Terry is putting freedom of speech front and centre. Picture: John Gass
New UQ vice-chancellor Deborah Terry is putting freedom of speech front and centre. Picture: John Gass


Professor Terry said the 2018 French review, which brought about the code of conduct, was "very important" and "very comprehensive", with the sector accepting the review ensuring the principles were identified in their policies.

"So I think if there was to be a further review to be undertaken, then yes, we would be open to it," she said.

The sandstone institution's first female vice-chancellor said it was an "absolute honour" to be appointed to the role.

"My first goal is obviously to listen, get a sense of current issues, obviously the whole sector not just The University of Queensland is going through a pretty difficult period at the moment with COVID-19 and really the next six to 18 months look tough," she said.

After six years as vice-chancellor and president of Curtin University in Western Australia,



Professor Terry today returns to UQ, where she started her career in the school of psychology in 1990 before rising to senior deputy vice-chancellor then moving to Perth in 2014.

She said she was proud to move to Queensland's top university, where researchers were racing to create a vaccine against the deadly COVID-19 virus, which could end the pandemic that has wreaked havoc on the world economy.

Mr Pavlou late yesterday posted to social media, asking for a meeting with the new vice-chancellor.

"I'm willing to drop my entire $3.5 million lawsuit against UQ if UQ just apologises to me, admits I was politically targeted and lets me return to my studies. This can all end," he wrote on Twitter.

However UQ said it was not appropriate to respond.





Originally published as New UQ boss tackles free-speech controversy