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ECU revoke former MPs honorary doctorate following ongoing criticism

ECU

Edith Cowan University have today revealed they will be revoking an honorary doctorate for former WA MP Barry House following ongoing criticism from community advocates, students and staff.

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Local LGBTQIA+ advocacy group Busselton Pride Alliance (BPA) had first raised concerns over the honorary doctorate with the university in May, highlighting House’s history of homophobic comments and casting votes against LGBTQIA+ law reform.

In June, ECU confirmed to Busselton Pride Alliance they would allow the honour to stand, citing that no policy had been broken by allowing House to keep the honour – a response BPA described as unacceptable.

Today Vice-Chancellor Professor Steve Chapman addressed ECU’s students, outlining the university’s decision to take back the House’s honour.

“As you are aware, there was public criticism following the award with community groups, staff members and students expressing serious concerns about comments made by Mr House in parliamentary debates dealing with LGBTIQ+ law reform,” Professor Chapman wrote in the missive.

“These comments were clearly incompatible with the values of the University.”

Professor Chapman also highlighted House’s response to public criticism in the Dunsborough Busselton Times, which prompted further community outcry.

“This additional information about Mr House’s views prompted the ECU Council to undertake a thorough and thoughtful review of the conferral of the honorary doctorate,” Prof. Chapman continued.

“At the conclusion of lengthy deliberations, the Council resolved to revoke the award.”

“We pride ourselves on being an inclusive community which actively supports equality and diversity. This decision reflects Council’s determination to ensure all staff and students, including members of the LGBTIQ+ community, feel valued and respected.”

Busselton Pride Alliance has welcomed the decision today. Spokesperson Clare Paine said she was pleased the university had ultimately responded to the concerns of students and staff and properly reviewed the decision in full context.

“While ECU has made the right decision, it is ‘disappointing’ that it had come to this,” Paine said.

“We wrote to Mr House in May asking if his views had changed over the years and if he now recognised the harm caused by homophobia and would apologise for his contribution to that harm?”

“Mr House did not respond in way that recognised this and did not clarify if his views had changed over the years.”

Paine said Busselton Pride Alliance had offered to meet with House to discuss the matter, though he had not taken them up on the offer.

“Then in early June, despite having given assurances to the university that he would uphold its values of integrity, respect, rational enquiry and personal excellence, Mr House attacked BPA in the local newspaper.”

“Mr House called BPA ‘nasty, vindictive and intolerant’, and further claimed that he was being ‘targeted and vilified with wild accusations’”

“BPA then asked Mr House to produce evidence of such ‘wild accusations’ – but he did not respond.”

“As a result of all these things, it is apparent that Mr House has fallen foul of ECU’s values and as such, quite rightly, cannot maintain his honorary doctorate.”

Paine and the BPA are urging ECU to review its honorary awards system and in particular to involve the Pride@ECU network in helping qualify applicants to uphold the university’s policies on equity and inclusion.

Leigh Andrew Hill

Declaration: OUTinPerth co-owner Graeme Watson is an employee of Edith Cowan University.


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