Issue 2, Volume 17
It’s quite likely that you’ll disagree with what I write below. You may even feel insulted. Even so, I hope that you are able to read it through. Try to reserve judgement. In many ways, I’m just like you. I’m a law student. I do my readings when I can, and I can’t function without my morning coffee. Sometimes, though, I can’t help but feel that there’s an invisible divide between me and my classmates.
As much as MLS sees itself as a diverse and inclusive space, it is to a large extent, neither of those things. Yes, there are more wom*n than men taking the JD, there are more LGBT people than the baseline population, and students from every continent walk the Law School’s halls. However, for all that, the law school still lacks a genuine diversity of opinion. In some ways, this is a reflection of broader social trends, and more acute within universities than anywhere else.
I don’t consider myself a ‘conservative’, but I do consider myself a rationalist, and in today’s day and age, that also makes me an iconoclast. As much as we may not like to admit it, there are a litany of ways in which a certain political narrative is given institutional heft by the Law School. For example, Sunday the 8th of March was International Women’s Day. A stall on the ground floor of MLS promoted women’s rights, with SSAF-funded chocolate to boot. However, just a few months ago, posters promoting International Men’s Day were torn down around UniMelb, and you can bet your bottom dollar that IMD won’t get a stall in MLS when it rolls round again.
Yes, I understand the automatic response is that women have faced historic hurdles that men have not faced. However, look around you. This is one of the most privileged institutions in the entire country, and it is packed with women. Indeed, more women graduate from universities around Australia these days than men. Is this evidence of a system that works tirelessly to keep women down? The narrative does not accord with the reality. I am not making the case that gendered problems do not exist, however, only one side of the story is allowed to be lamented.
Another example is the acknowledgement of country, said before every ceremony and at the commencement of every semester. I will explain, as I know I’ll be attacked for this one. Regardless of the relative merits of Aboriginal sovereignty, the statement itself is an overtly political act, especially given that fact that, so far as I know, no one in my entire year level identifies as Aboriginal. Instead, the statement serves as a signal, that the people who hold power at the university hold a particular set of political views – and the people who study here are expected to agree, or at least be repeatedly exposed to them, while they grin and bear it.
I do not believe my opposition to this practice is ‘racist’. On the contrary, the welcome is a way to preserve racial differences in society, and elevate one race above the others living in contemporary Australia. Beyond that, it’s hypocritical. I doubt the university will ever return the land upon which it stands to the descendants of its long-dead precolonial inhabitants. It will therefore remain an empty token, used to signal ‘wokeness’ to other ivory-tower academics, and their acolytes.
Perhaps it would be easy to write this piece off as the work of some reactionary white guy, except that I am both non-white, and LGBT-identifying. However, the fact that this might validate my opinions is itself symptomatic of the problem. Those things do not define the way in which I interact with the world around me. I don’t insist that everybody bow and scrape to my sensibilities. If I see or hear something I disagree with, which is often, I don’t launch the kind of vicious personal attack that I’d be liable to receive were I to attach my real name to this piece. I complain online, and in forums like this one, where the goal is to win people around to your way of thinking, not to punish them for disagreeing with you.
I hope, too, that my view that there is a left-wing bias at MLS doesn’t lead me to be lumped in with crusty old racists, yearning for the halcyon days of aboriginal reservations, and fixed family units. I abhor that kind of dismissal, because what I want most of all, is the ability to have my voice heard. Not to be shouted down just for what I feel. Like I said, I never attack anyone individually, and try to be courteous when I disagree with someone. Even so, I feel isolated and attacked for my core beliefs – who I am. In the end, is that really so different from attacking someone for being gay, or for having a foreign name? Perhaps not as much as you’d like to believe.
Anonymous is a JD student.
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