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Keep racial politics out of research

Simon Power National Tertiary Education Spokesman

24 September 2003

Keep racial politics out of research

National's Tertiary Education spokesman is attacking an Otago University Council ruling that university researchers must consult with Ngai Tahu before carrying out research.

"This is a ridiculous decision, just another example of creeping political correctness," says Simon Power, who's calling for the decision to be reversed.

Mr Power says the policy - which was opposed by academic staff representatives - covers all research for which formal propositions are written, and which are funded either internally or externally.

"It's not just confined to research involving Maori topics which raises some serious questions - what if a topic is controversial, such as the Treaty of Waitangi? What if the research is of no significance to Maori, such as studies on English literature or anthropological studies of other cultures?

"Academic staff have every right to be worried about the potential impact of this decision on their academic freedom," says Mr Power.

"If universities persist down this road, we'll end up with further examples of:

* Research into sheep footrot at Lincoln University missing out on funding because its Maori reference group says 'the outcomes for Maori need to be better targeted.' (December 2002)

* Funding for a Canterbury University research project into paua growth being knocked back because it didn't have strong enough Maori connections. (December 2002)

* Vital research money being siphoned from agriculture, at the same time that a wishy-washy fund is set up for Maori research. (September 2003)

"It's not possible to demand progress and then veto the sort of research that could make this progress possible," says Mr Power.


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