''Academics have both a right and an obligation to speak out about the concerns they have about the way social institutions are working,'' says Professor Judith Bessant.


RMIT sacked youth studies and sociology Professor Bessant last April, despite the university having acknowledged that she was a ''very good researcher'', a scholar ''of international standing'' and ''an impressive teacher''.

But in a decision handed down last week, Justice Peter Gray found the university had likely fired Professor Bessant after she made allegations of bullying and intimidation against another professor, David Hayward.

In deciding the case, Justice Gray also said he took into consideration the ''apparent determination'' by RMIT Vice-Chancellor Margaret Gardner to ''ignore her knowledge of Professor Hayward's animosity towards Professor Bessant''.

Professor Gardner displayed a lack of contrition for what the court found to be a blatant contravention of workplace laws.

The National Tertiary Education Union Victorian secretary Colin Long said the judgment provided a telling insight into the management culture at Australian universities (and schools) .

Dr Long said the decision reflected the ''group-think'' prevalent in Australian university managements, aimed at silencing dissenters and backing bad decisions.

Justice Gray found that, if Professor Bessant had sought damages against the university rather than asking for her job back, she would have got ''significantly in excess of $1 million'' and potentially up to $1.9 million.


RMIT professor unfairly sacked, Clay Lucas, The Age, 20 May 2013 :  http://www.theage.com.au/national/education/rmit-professor-unfairly-sacked-20130519-2juso.html